Sir Peter Ustinov, actor and UNICEF ambassador, dies at 82

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The Independent Online

Tributes began pouring in today for the Oscar-winning actor Sir Peter Ustinov, who has died aged 82.

Sir Peter, whose multi-talented career spanned some 60 years, died last night.

His agent Steve Kennis told Sky News: "He was a giver throughout everything, a wonderful warm human being at all times."

He added: "He would always see the bright side of something - even something that would be very annoying to him or to all of us around him.

"He'd get over it and always find there was something positive to be gained from it."

Mr Kennis said: "He was a two-time Oscar winner, nominated for two other Oscars, author, award-winning just about everything, Unicef ambassador and worldwide humanitarian."

Sir Peter had lived in Switzerland for decades but was born in Britain.

Mr Kennis said he was "very proud" of his Russian heritage.

"He used to say that though he was born in London he was conceived in St Petersburg, his family having arrived in London not too long before he was born.

"He would go back there and work on things for the goodness that he drew from it."

He was knighted in 1990.

"He never took the billing of Sir Peter in any of the movies or TV that he did. He was always Peter Ustinov. And I think that's the way we should remember him."

Sir Peter had been Chancellor of Durham University since 1992.

The University's Vice-Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman said: "The University has lost an outstanding friend and ambassador.

"He will be remembered with great affection and appreciation for the wisdom and humour and the generosity of spirit that he gave to the university.

"He will be missed not only by the staff and students, but also by the huge family of graduates and their relations who enjoyed his unique contribution to our degree ceremonies."

Sir Peter "was held in such great affection by staff, graduates and their families", a university spokeswoman said.

He conferred degrees on more than 30,000 graduates during his time at Durham.

"So many of his values of people working together were shared by the university, and his prevailing message to graduates and staff at degree ceremonies was that learning goes on throughout our lives," the spokeswoman said.

He was chosen as Chancellor "because of his extraordinary qualities and achievements" and he "mixed equally with statesmen and refugees, with academics and artists, and with children of all continents".

Sir Peter would draw on his vast range of personal experiences while talking to academics and students.

The spokeswoman added: "In the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, he spoke of his personal conversations with people like Yasser Arafat, King Hussain and Prime Minister Rabin.

"At Ushaw College which is a Roman Catholic theological college affiliated to the university he entranced them with accounts of his visit to the Vatican and its museums, on which he had just made a television series.

"He took part in a student theatre production as a voice on the radio, recording his part with the student producer during his summer visit for use in the following term."