Karen Alexander came to the University 36 years ago as a Senior Secretary. A serious illness had put paid to much of her education between the ages of 13 and 16, but she remedied this by gaining A levels at evening classes and then reading for an Arts degree followed by a Law degree, whilst at the same time continuing with her demanding full-time day job.
Karen joined us not long after the University received its Royal Charter and since then she has served the University under all 4 of its Chancellors, and all 6 Vice-Chancellors. She is our collective memory, the first person we turn to for information about facts and events in the University’s history.
During the last decade Karen has been responsible for organising many of the University’s most prestigious ceremonial events, particularly these degree congregations. These currently number twelve a year, mostly on campus, some on the other side of the world in Singapore and Malaysia and some in special venues, such as the Science Museum in London. She has been responsible for ceremonies at which more than 30,000 students have graduated. Her work with Honorary Graduates has brought her into correspondence and contact with house-hold names from all walks of life, Jose Carreras, Gary Lineker, Dame Judi Dench, Richard Branson, Paula Radcliffe and many others.
As she herself has says: “Not bad for a girl who has coped all her adult life with a heart defect – that legacy from her childhood – and whose parents were warned that if she ever recovered sufficiently to take a job at all it must be a quiet one, with no stress attached!”
This is Karen’s final degree ceremony. Nothing could be more fitting than that our final act today should be to recognise someone who has served the university so faithfully and with a unique sense of humour for 36 years, and who has been the backbone of these ceremonies for more than a decade.
Therefore Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you, for the award of the Loughborough University Medal, Karen Alice Alexander.