26 January 2013

On Graduation, Graduates and Inspirational Figures

It was graduation day yesterday and I got to read out the names of the graduands from IDS (graduands is the term for students about to be conferred degrees).

The ceremony was at the Brighton Dome, a fabulous venue which was packed with graduands and their families and friends.

The Chancellor of the University of Sussex is Sanjeev Bhaskar an actor, comedian and documentary film maker.  He was pretty funny.  My favourite jokes:  "I am proud that the University of Sussex has established a new Centre for the Study of Corruption--and they paid me £50 to say that." and referring to the 50 professors on stage as "50 Shades of Grey".

I always find these ceremonies moving but this one more than most.  First, David Stone, the Paralympian, received an Honorary Doctorate. David was a graduate of the School of Social Work 5 years ago.  Since then he added to his golds in cycling from Beijing in 2008 with another two medals at the London Paralympics.  David has cerebral palsy and his story is remarkable.  I found his determination to be a social worker even more extraordinary than his cycling achievements.  To be able to function effectively in his profession with his disabilities requires incredible determination, self belief and skill.  Inspiring.

We also had the honour of awarding a MA from IDS to Member Feese (pronounced Mem-bay Fee-se).

On August 26, 2011 a bomb exploded in the UN building in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  It killed 21 people and wounded nearly a hundred more.  Member was one of those wounded. She was waiting to get some data for her Masters Dissertation.   Member spent months in hospital in recovery.  But one year later she came back to her studies and back to Sussex. 

During her rehabilitation, I got to know Member better and to meet her wonderfully supportive family. During this time she has become an inspiration for me and for so many of us at IDS and the wider Sussex community.  

Why an inspiration?  Because while she was wounded in the attack, she was not bowed.  

Her determination to finish her degree and her commitment to learning have been extraordinary.  And her commitment to international development is stronger than ever.  She is now working in the Central Bank of Nigeria and has established her own NGO in Nigeria, Team Member.   

See a video of her incredible story here

Member, we salute your courage and we are all proud to be part of Team Member.  


Idowu Ejere said...

I am always drawn to your blog. Today I am glad to read about the graduation ceremony, I remember mine just 4 years ago. I am touched by Member's story not just as an IDS alumni but also as a Nigerian. I hope the world appreciates more people like Member and David Stone.

Lawrence Haddad said...

Thanks Idowu. I couldn't agree more. Best

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