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Northumbria University honours inspirational campaigner

10th July 2014

Racial equality and community relations campaigner Baroness Howells of St Davids, OBE, was today (Thursday July 10th) awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Baroness HowellsBaroness Howells left St David’s in Grenada in 1951 to study law in England, but encountered humiliating racism when she arrived. She persevered in her efforts to find work before she began her course, eventually becoming the first black person to work in a public library.

Community relations in Britain became her great passion and she has campaigned tirelessly for justice in the field of racial equality. She and her fellow campaigners have helped to shape race relations policy in the UK.

When Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack in 1993, Baroness Howells became a valued friend and adviser to his distraught parents. Her support continues not just in a personal capacity, but also as a board member of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Baroness Howells was the first black woman to sit on the Greater London Council’s Training Board, the first female member of the Court of Governors of the University of Greenwich, and the Vice Chair at the London Voluntary Services Council. She has also worked with the Carnival Liaison Committee and Greater London Action in Race Equality.

After a distinguished and wide-ranging career in the voluntary and social services sectors, she retired as director of the Greenwich Racial Equality Office and was awarded an OBE. She was elevated to the House of Lords in 1999.

She has maintained her links with Grenada whilst living in the UK. In the 1970s she was appointed Deputy High Commissioner in London, with a spell in 1979 as Acting High Commissioner.

Northumbria University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has worked in partnership with St George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada since 2007. Baroness Howells serves on the board of St George’s University Trust in the UK and is President of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), which is based at St George’s University.

The recipients of honorary degrees are nominated by the University’s staff for their achievements, their links to the University – and for their sheer inspirational qualities. Vera Baird QC and Brian Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC are also receiving honorary degrees from Northumbria University this month.

Baroness Howells was awarded her degree alongside students from Northumbria’s Health and Life Sciences programmes. Whilst at the University, Baroness Howells took the opportunity to visit Northumbria’s healthcare and medicine teaching facilities, including the Clinical Skills Centre and the Anatomy Teaching Centre.

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