Published: 29-01-2024 16:43 | Updated: 30-01-2024 11:28

Master of ceremonies bows out

Ylva Blomberg with the student marshals on 10 November.
Ylva Blomberg with the student marshals at the conferement ceremony on 10 November 2023. Photo: N/A.

In the 14 years that Ylva Blomberg has been KI’s master of ceremonies, new doctors, professors and prize-winners have enjoyed a blend of tradition and merry-making. As she heads to retirement on 30 January, she looks back on her 33 years at KI and forward to more time for life’s desserts – and her electric guitar.

She has made her decision and the day of her retirement approaches. Master of Ceremonies Ylva Blomberg is clearing her bookshelf, deleting folders from her computer and boxing up the many compelling memories of her years at KI as she looks forward to creating many more.

Ylva Blomberg.
Ylva Blomberg, KI's retiring master of ceremonies. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman.

"At the risk of sounding sentimental, I really want to do things I’ve not really had time for, like spending more time with my six grandchildren, giving the garden a bit of a makeover, swinging the old golf clubs, travelling, taking courses ..."

Ylva Blomberg joined KI in 1990 working under Bengt Samuelsson, the then KI president and Nobel laureate to boot. 

"I was departmental secretary and provided administrative support for researchers, doctoral students, professors and, above all, Bengt."

Unexpected challenges

Back then, KI held only one academic ceremony a year. When it was decided to hold more, Ylva began to help prepare the celebrations. 

"I worked with the then master of ceremonies, Agneta von Bahr, and when she retired in 2009, I was asked if I wanted to take over. It’s been a lot of fun and incredibly intense, especially since I place such high demands on myself in all I do."

Of the many experiences Ylva Blomberg has had in her role as master of ceremonies, the pandemic proved especially challenging, as did the planned reception at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador in Washington DC in celebration of KI’s 200th anniversary 14 years ago.

"My responsibility was the dinner in the garden that concluded the event. The house chef produced the menu, Swedish artists were booked to provide the entertainment and an enormous marquee was rented. We all pulled together to make sure the evening would be a magical one."

Instead, something unexpected happened. The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, and the disruption to air traffic caused by the spreading ash led to the closure of Sweden’s airspace. 

"We were unable to travel to the US and had to cancel at short notice. We had to start all over again and make plans for a new event a few months later."

Praise for her colleagues 

Ylva Blomberg underscores the importance of academic ceremonies for KI as a university. 

"They showcase KI to the outside world and display something very fine and special. If any new doctors or professors who attend them travel back to their home countries or take up new careers in another country, they become KI’s absolute best ambassadors. The ceremonies are also a unifying factor that brings everyone at KI together."

In summing up her years at KI, Ylva Blomberg returns to a key factor in the love of her work and in arranging ceremonies in which every detail has to be just right:

"I can’t overstate the importance of my colleagues and the invaluable contributions they’ve made. You’re absolutely fantastic, and this includes the student ushers and their valuable role in what we do. It’s been a privilege and a joy to work with you all."

Memories for life

Ylva Blomberg is to be succeeded by Anne Heikkinen Sandberg, for whom she has a few words of advice: 

"Enjoy your time as master of ceremonies, that’s my best advice. I also think it’s important to be open and get a feeling for what KI is, what we stand for, and how all this is to be reflected in the ceremonies we arrange. Our ceremonies are relaxed, beautiful and stately, and create memories for life for the principal participants and their guests."

According to an unconfirmed source (Ylva is herself doubtful of its veracity), Ylva Blomberg once apparently said that she intended to learn to play electric guitar when she retired. She was duly given a guitar this Christmas, in perfect timing for her retirement, and has already started. 

"There are tons of films on YouTube showing you what to do, but it’s really hard to find the right strings. Lucky for me that I’m going to have lots of time!"

Ylva Blomberg, KI’s retiring master of ceremonies 

Describe yourself: I’m diplomatic and very loyal. At work I want control. I’m meticulous and have high personal integrity.

Home: A house in Enskededalen.

Family: Husband Matte, pensioner/consultant; sons Daniel and Niklas, both haulage firm managers, and six grandchildren between the ages of 6 and 14.

Interests: Reading, travelling, gardening, golf, culture, music, walking. Likes to go skiing, cycling, mushroom picking, but sitting on the jetty with a glass of wine will do just as well.