Today was a day of celebration in Shropshire’s county town as University Centre Shrewsbury’s newest graduates gathered with family, friends, tutors and an honorary guest to mark their achievements.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Eunice Simmons, presented undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and awards to more than 150 graduands in the majestic surroundings of St Chad’s Church.
The next generation of talent from the fields of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Health, Medicine and Society, and Science, Business and Enterprisewere applauded during two graduation ceremonies.
They were joined by The Reverend Canon Dr Mark Oakley who received an Honorary Doctor of Education. Mark is from Shrewsbury and is Dean, Fellow and Tutor of St John’s College, Cambridge; Canon Theologian of Wakefield Cathedral, and was from 1996 until this year, a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to the Queen and then King.
He has been described by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, as “one of the most distinctive, intelligent and refreshing voices in the Church of England” and his roles have also included: Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe; Residentiary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral; author and admired public speaker, and currently Ambassador for Stop Hate UK, among extensive human rights work.
This year marks five years since University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS), a partnership between the University of Chester and Shropshire Council, held its first ever graduation ceremony.
Professor Simmons said: “Graduation is a special and especially joyful time of the year.
“We are delighted to give our graduands, their families and all who have supported them the occasion they deserve. It is a pleasure to acknowledge their hard work, commitment, and all that they have accomplished, proving their resilience in the time of a pandemic and beyond.
“Today we also celebrate the friendships and memories they have made, and that we hope will serve them well in their next chapter, and throughout their lives.
“I would like to thank our students for all of their efforts and all they have contributed to the University and wider community. We congratulate them and wish them every success in the future.”
She added: “It has also been a privilege to welcome The Reverend Canon Dr Mark Oakley to join us today and to present him with an honorary degree recognising his achievements and how much he has given to society.”
“Today has been a memorable celebration for all who have graduated, and everyone who has been a part of their University journey.
“Our new graduates have not only completed their studies but also created a legacy, whether that be through supporting their fellow students, academic research, or fundraising and volunteering their time and talents. I am extremely proud of our graduates.
“I wish them all the best in their next steps and remind them that they are now part of a supportive, global alumni community, and urge them to stay in touch and continue to share their successes.”
Dr Oakley said: “I am absolutely thrilled, and deeply honoured, to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Chester. This is an international and diverse university, with a proud history and an even greater loyalty to the future, and I am delighted now to be an ambassador for its excellent educational work.”
Beth Jones, Events and Festivals Management graduate, described how “being a student at University Centre Shrewsbury, in setting and reaching new goals, has provided me with some of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life”.
“I have had many opportunities that have allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and continuously develop my skills. For example, creating and running a live-event, ‘The Shrewsbury Cake Trail’ with two of my peers was an instrumental part of my degree that I will always look back on with pride,” she said.
Organised last year alongside fellow Events and Festivals Management students, Billie Taylor and Lucy Bance, the Cake Trail raised more than £1,600 for the Lingen Davies Cancer Fund.
Beth added: “With the unparalleled support and kindness from my lecturers at UCS, I was able to achieve marks and grades in my assignments which I did not think were possible three years ago. I am so proud to have graduated with a first-class degree today, with my peers. I am excited for what’s to come in the future as a graduate with the opportunities that my degree has created for me.”