Summer graduations at the University of Bedfordshire moved this week from Bedford to Luton, and amongst the highlights of the first ceremony, at the University’s Putteridge Bury campus on Monday (21 July), was the award of an Honorary Degree to actress, author and animal rights campaigner Virginia McKenna.
The multiple award-winning actress became an Honorary Doctor of Arts, for her outstanding contribution to acting and the conservation of animals – after over 280 graduates from the University’s Health and Social Sciences faculty stepped up on stage to receive their graduation certificates.
As a screen actress, Virginia McKenna appeared in classic films such as The Cruel Sea, Carve Her Name With Pride and A Town Like Alice – for which she received a BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
But she is probably best-known for her portrayal of Joy Adamson in the true-life film Born Free, for which she won the Variety Club Best Actress Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe. And she reflected on this life-changing role when she spoke to the new graduates after receiving her doctorate.
“You shouldn’t worry if people doubt you!” she said referring to how, after completing work on Born Free, she and her late husband, actor Bill Travers, became active animal welfare and conservation campaigners.
“When we first began the Born Free Foundation, people doubted us, saying we didn’t know what we are talking about, and we would be a flash in the pan movement, but we believed in the project and decades later, we are still going strong”, she continued.
Also receiving an ovation at the ceremony was Sports Therapy graduate Laura Robinson, who the recipient of this year’s Julie Dass Outstanding Achievement Award. Laura received the award, given annually to a graduate who has overcome adversity, for her exceptional resolve and effort, after being diagnosed with a learning disability, causing short-term memory loss, in her second year at University.
Among the staff and students who found Laura’s dedication inspiring was Senior Sports Therapy Lecturer Tim Payne, who said:
“It’s quite amazing the way she worked. We all saw how hard she pushed herself, retaining the complicated and detailed information that’s required for the course. We couldn’t be happier for her”.
Nearly 600 Health and Social Sciences students graduated on Monday, while graduates from the Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies & Science and the Business School will attend ceremonies over the rest of this week. The Summer’s graduations will conclude on Friday (25 July), with theinstallation of the Rt Hon John Bercow MP as the University of Bedfordshire’s new Chancellor.
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