Newman University presents Honorary Degrees

23/10/2019 by Sinead Staunton

Each year Newman University, Birmingham awards Honorary Degrees to those it feels have made a positive impact upon the society in which we live.

On Tuesday 22nd October, the University held its annual graduation ceremony at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, where graduates were able to celebrate with friends, family and staff from Newman University.

This year the Honorary Graduates were Sr Margaret Walsh, IJS, Ms Marcia McLaughlin F.Birm.Soc, and Mr Jack Robbins.

Sr Margaret Walsh

Sr Margaret Walsh received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws. Sr Margaret Walsh has been an Infant Jesus Sister for over 50 years and it was while teaching in a comprehensive school in Crewe that she heard God’s call to live and work in the inner city and in 1984 was led to Wolverhampton. Margaret and her team of Sisters and lay people regularly visited the tenants on the Heath Town estate. They soon found those most in need and were able to help by listening and working with them. Some years later, a centre for family activities was set up on the estate and the Hope Community continues to thrive. After spending some time on Sabbatical in India, Sr Margaret moved to Smethwick in Sandwell and, with a growing team of volunteers, she set up the Brushstrokes Community Project in 1999. Again, the aim was to support the most vulnerable. While visiting families she met asylum seekers and soon felt that they were the most deprived and isolated in the neighbourhood. Many of the Project’s activities became designed around their needs.

When the Brushstrokes Community Project was well established, Sr Margaret became aware of a growing need in Birmingham city, especially among asylum seekers who had become homeless and destitute.  St Chad’s Cathedral was approached for help and the Salvation Army was also happy to be involved.  St Chad’s Sanctuary was established in February 2010 and is now a recognised city centre project offering a multi-faith and multi-cultural place of welcome, support and practical help for asylum seekers and refugees.

Sr Margaret is still the full time, voluntary manager at St Chad’s Sanctuary with over 100 volunteers and a small core group of staff.  Visiting Erasmus students from all over Europe have been welcomed on placements and many students from Newman University have been inspired by involvement, and continued working on a voluntary basis after their assessment ended. Sr Margaret remains on the management of the Hope Community and Brushstrokes and she is also a trustee with Birmingham Churches Together.

The Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred by Newman University on Sr Margaret Walsh for her visionary and inspirational work over many years to help those who find themselves marginalised in society.

Ms Marcia McLaughlin

Ms Marcia McLaughlin received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters. Marcia McLaughlin was born in Jericho, Clarendon in Jamaica, before coming to join her parents in the UK in June 1971. She was educated locally at Lea Bank Junior School, Lea Mason Secondary School and Bournville College. She is the Founder and Editor in Chief or The Phoenix Newspaper, located in Birmingham City Centre. Marcia has extensive experience in advertising and media sales and a long history in publishing. She was Enterprise Co-ordinator for Trinity Mirror (Birmingham) where she launched the first edition of The Enterprise newspaper, which was designed originally as a feature to promote positivity and excellence in multicultural society. After leaving Trinity Mirror in 1995 she continued this publication until 2002 under her own completely self-funded personal publishing company. Following a serious accident, and with a small donated investment to give her the necessary start-up capital, Marcia began The Phoenix Newspaper. This was a rebranding of her initial vision and with this she has succeeded in bringing together people from all communities and backgrounds, sharing their achievements in a positive, objective and informative way. The Phoenix Newspaper is now recognised as a mainstream, non-biased publication producing a monthly print and online newspaper, a weekly newsletter, as well as a daily online presence out to a worldwide audience.

Marcia’s tireless endeavours have previously been recognised with a number of awards including Female Entrepreneur of the Year by Business Link; Inspirational Woman of the Year Award; Lifetime Achievement Award in publishing by Bex Live; Community Group Inspiration Award by Word 4 Weapons; a Local Heroes award from the Association of Jamaican Nationals in Birmingham; a Fellowship from The Birmingham Society and a Women Of Purpose award from Victoria Mutual Building Society.  The Phoenix Newspaper was also awarded the Patricia M Purchase Certificate by The Birmingham Society in recognition of its success in making Birmingham a better place by promoting community cohesion.

The Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters was conferred by Newman University on Marcia McLaughlin for her considerable achievements in bringing together people from all backgrounds and communities across the Commonwealth and beyond in a positive and celebratory way through the medium of the written word.

Mr Jack Robbins received an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts (in absentia). Jack Robbins was born in Catford, London, in 1927. He trained as a teacher and subsequently received a BEd (Hons) from the University of Lancaster. Apart from a spell as an administrator in banking, his career was spent in teaching, culminating in his appointment as Deputy Headmaster of St Gregory’s School in Bedford and then as Headmaster. He has also been deeply involved in Church music both during his career and in his retirement. He gained a Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians. Jack Robbins is the author of a book entitled John Priestly Warmoll: Apostle of Bedford: His Life, Times and Family (2004). He has also produced a typescript of a thesis entitled: The Liturgy of the Mass: Past, Present and Proposed. Jack is the holder of the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for outstanding service to the Church, particularly in the fields of Church Music and Catholic Education, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia’s Diocesan Medal for Church Music and Catechetics.

The Honorary Degree of Master of Arts was conferred in absentia on Jack Robbins in recognition of his contributions to research and scholarship in the fields of Ecclesiastical History and Church Music.