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Honorary Degree Orations
Public Orator, Howard Jones presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Friday 14 July at 3.00pm
Chancellor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The Council of Loughborough University is its Governing Body, exercising a general control over the University and all its affairs. The constitution of the Council ensures, however, that these extensive powers are not placed solely in the hands of the University’s own staff. It specifically provides for the election or co-option of persons with equal status, who are neither employees nor students of the University. This group is described as the lay membership in order to draw attention both to their independent status and to the fact that they do not need to have specialist knowledge in order to serve . Their role is greatly valued by the University, an institution which has always been outward-facing, partnering industry, the professions and the local community and welcoming their contribution.
Margaret Tomlinson is one such lay member of Council, having been elected by Court in 2000. Margaret’s nomination to Court was put forward by the local branch of the British Federation of University Women, now the British Association of Women Graduates.
Born in Leicestershire, Margaret has lived in the county all her life. She attended school in Loughborough and is a graduate of Nottingham University. Margaret was one of just two girls from her year at Loughborough High School to proceed to university. The equivalent figure for 2005 was 83! Margaret was too young, however, to take up her place immediately and spent the intervening twelve months, or gap year as we would now call it, in industry, reporting for duty at 7.00 every morning.
Margaret has demonstrated a life-long commitment to, and interest in, education at all levels. Although trained initially in personnel management, she chose teaching as her career and, impressively, Latin as her subject.
Margaret’s principal teaching appointment was in a state grammar school. She gave up teaching, however, in order to devote herself full-time to family life. She and her husband Philip have two children, Ian and Julia, both of whom are here today. Ian is a university professor and a senior scientist at Cancer Research UK. Ian was voted European Achiever of the Year in 2005 for his “ground-breaking research in cancer genetics”. Julia graduated in design and after holding appointments with John Lewis and Debenhams, became freelance. Earlier this year, however, she applied for a temporary vacancy with a top London design company, emerging from the interview with the permanent post of Director of Creative Services.
Margaret represents the best tradition of lay involvement in the life of Loughborough University. Extremely proud of the University’s achievements and one of its most loyal supporters, she has given of her time willingly in order to serve on Council committees, boards and panels as well as making a full contribution to meetings of the parent body itself. Quite prepared to probe with a forensic skill and ask the searching question in order to understand the more arcane and complex aspects of the University, Margaret has gained a reputation for evaluating alternatives carefully and offering wise guidance. I have witnessed this at first hand through our mutual membership of the Access to Learning Fund Panel. ALF, as it is known, gives grants to UK students in financial difficulties. Margaret is both discerning and fair. She supports, of course, the rules imposed by the Department for Education and Science but she is equally prepared to endorse their imaginative interpretation, in order to respond to obvious need.
Margaret retires from Council this year after six years’ service and her contribution will be greatly missed.
Margaret has an exemplary record of voluntary work. She ran single-handedly, for 30 years, a charity for the elderly in Shepshed and was Chair of Governors of a local primary school for 15 years. Margaret is interested in…..well everything really but mentions especially, politics, philosophy, music, houses, antiques and plants. She and Philip have nurtured one of the loveliest gardens in Loughborough, the sort in fact where one might expect Alan Titchmarsh to appear from behind a rare specimen, beaming with admiration. Many of us have enjoyed too their gracious and generous hospitality.
When mentioning members of Margaret’s family earlier on, I made only a passing reference to Philip. This was quite deliberate. I can now disclose that I presented Philip for an honorary degree of Loughborough University in 1995. He too has been a most capable and indefatigable lay contributor to the affairs of the University. In the intervening 11 years, the University has made truly impressive advances. Margaret, Philip and all their lay colleagues, are entitled to a share in the credit for what has been achieved. It was a privilege to act as Philip’s public orator; the honour is doubled for me today as I present to you, Chancellor and to the University, a first class governor and fan, Margaret Tomlinson for the degree of Doctor of the University honoris causa.