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‘It’s an affirmation of my life’s work’ – Liverpool Hope University celebrates golden graduates

Bursting with pride, they came from near and far to savour a graduation ceremony with a difference.

Some in their 90s, the years nevertheless fell away as old friends were reunited in the sunshine.

Around 600 former students who studied to be teachers at Liverpool Hope University’s founding colleges – some during WW2 – received Honorary degrees on Friday (July 12).

The University welcomed back alumni who received a CertEd before 1980 during a special celebration watched by their loved ones.

Many have retired from long and successful careers in teaching, but said receiving their Honorary Bachelor of Education degree was an unexpected and welcome highlight.

Barbara Fry, 92, studied at the Sisters of Notre Dame Mount Pleasant Training College between 1946 and 1948.

She received her degree on Friday watched by daughters Anne Watson, Stephanie Williams and Julie Plumb, who all followed her into a career in teaching.

Mrs Williams, who also went to one of Hope’s founding institutions, Christ’s College, made the trip from Adelaide, Australia, to attend.

“It was wonderful,” said Barbara, from Chester. “I have only fond memories of my time at Notre Dame – the friends I made and how helpful and kind the nuns were.

“I’m very proud to have got a degree after all this time.”

The graduates received their certificates after a ceremony in Hope Park sports centre, which featured a mix of music, prayer and memories.

Revd Canon Peter Winn presented an honorary degree certificate to Irene Slack, a member of Hope’s alumni association, and current student Eleanor Jones, who accept the certificate on behalf of all the graduates.

The two women then reflected on their experiences as trainee teachers at Liverpool Hope University, before an address from guest Sir Christopher Stone.

Afterwards the new graduates made their way to the Rector’s Lawn to enjoy tea and cake.

Some had their photograph taken in a robe and mortar board.

Among the crowd were seven friends from across the UK enjoying a special reunion.

The women, who all studied and lived together at Notre Dame between 1972 and 1975 have remained life-long friends but used their return to Liverpool to recreate a photograph taken while they studied together.

One of them, Maggie McClymont, said: “The seven of us became friends first and eventually shared a house.

“We worked very hard and had lots of fun along the way. Some Notre Dame nuns lived in the house next door to us and I think they had to get ear-plugs!”

Philomena Bleasdale, 78, came with her daughter Sue Chapman. Although originally from Wigan the pair made the trip from Sussex where they now live.

Mrs Bleasdale had a successful 50-year career in secondary school teaching after studying at Notre Dame Mount Pleasant between 1959 and 1961.

“I was the first person in my family to go into higher education,” she said. “My dad was a miner and my mum worked in a factory but they encouraged me to pursue my education.

“I had a long, enjoyable career and went on to do a high-ranking diploma. But I can’t tell you what receiving this degree means to me.

“It’s an affirmation of my life’s work.”

The event on Friday followed the PGCE ceremony for current students in the morning and the campus was bustling with visitors as summer graduation season began in memorable fashion.

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