It was an inauspicious start. As Stephen Fry emerged from his self-imposed exile yesterday to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Dundee University, Fraser McNaughton, the chaplain, opened the ceremony with a prayer reminding dignitaries that "this might be the last time we see some of those around us - the tired and old as well as the athletic and bouncy".
Making his first public appearance since he walked out of the West End play Cell Mates and fled to France in February, Fry, 37, with his newly-dyed blonde hair, resisted the temptation to smile. He sat impassively as some of the 5,000 students he represents as university rector graduated.
Fry, who returned from New York for the ceremony in the city's Caird Hall, was conferred the degree when he was re-elected unopposed for a second term as rector earlier this year. In a speech, Chris Davey, a lecturer in modern history, praised Fry for successfully combining the rector's role of "uncle and nursemaid, girlfriend and father confessor, and regimental goat".
Asked about his disappearance in February, Fry said: "I really have nothing to say." He is expected to make a full public statement about why he left Britain when formally installed as Dundee rector in October.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies