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Author Ronald Blythe joins hundreds of graduates celebrating degree successes during second day of ceremonies

20 Oct 2015 9:00PM

University Campus Suffolk (UCS) students converged upon the Ipswich Town Hall and Corn Exchange today for the second day of graduation ceremonies. Amongst them was Akenfield author Ronald Blythe who was presented with an Honorary Doctorate.

Writer Ronald Blythe is arguably one of our most renowned and best loved English writers.

Based in Dedham Vale he is best known for his work Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (1969). This account is of agricultural life in Suffolk from the turn of the century to the 1960s.

92 year old Ronald Blythe was born in Acton, Suffolk and the eldest of six children. His father came from generations of East Anglian farmers and farm workers and this has influenced his interests throughout his life.

He has been president of the John Clare Society since its foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a Benson Medal for lifelong achievement by the Royal Society of Literature, where he is a Fellow, and continues to write a weekly column in The Church Times entitled Word from Wormingford. He is also a reader in the Church of England and a lay canon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

Ronald said It feels special to be recognised this way in Suffolk, where I belong, its a treat really, very nice.

He told the congregation I feel very much like I belong in Suffolk. There are certain writers based in a certain landscape and everything they do comes from that particular place. Youll find you belong here to Suffolk, East Anglia, youll find bit by bit this part of the world will sort of train you, make you see things in a different way and you can be helped in this by reading the works of the great writers who come from East Anglia over the centuries and also of course the artists Gainsborough and Constable. And then theres the work of Benjamin Britten. We live in the most wonderful county. You too will benefit from it, it will be part of you, your background and youll add to it and thats important because nothing is static, everything has to move. I am delighted to be here tonight with you all, to come to familiar Ipswich. I hope youll be extremely happy, busy and successful.

Ceremonies today saw students from the Suffolk Business School, the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work and the Department of Young People and Education presented with their awards.

Honorary awards were also presented to Karen Hester and Maureen Reynel.

Chief Operating Officer at Adnams, Karen Hester, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. Karen joined Adnams in 1988 as a part-time cleaner. Today, she is responsible for over 400 employees, ensuring the smooth daily operations of the Company. Adnams being a diverse organisation means that manufacturing, pubs, hotels, shops, human resources and logistics are all within Karens remit.

Karen also sits on the Board of Independence Matters, an organisation that provides support services tailored to the needs of adults with learning and physical disabilities.

Karen won East of England Business Woman of the Year in 2008 and First Women Business of the Year in 2013. Most recently, Karen became the first woman to be appointed to the Adnams Board as an Executive Director since the Company formed in 1872.

In 2009 she became a magistrate. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and is regularly found on the terraces at Ipswich Town Football Club.

Karen said to the graduates Not only am I honoured and privileged to accept this award today but it is a dream for me because when I was young the opportunities to go to university were not there. I actually wanted to go to university to be a barrister but that wasnt to be so my career path was very different. What is apparent today is how great you have all done, I am at the other end of the scale, you are just beginning your journey of learning. Never forget where you have come from and all the support structure you have had around you to get you to where you are today because today is a fantastic beginning for you.

Im sure many of you would have preferred to graduate yesterday but obviously you hadnt met me then and actually its probably lucky for Ed Sheeran to be before me because I am a hard act to follow, so thanks Ed for that- going before me! I would like to thank my family who have supported me, Adnams and a great coach and mentor to me thats Andy Wood. My advice for you all now is to be the best you can be, enjoy today because the hard work probably begins now for you whereas I am just going to chillax as Ed said so congratulations to you all, I wish you all good success in your careers but do work hard because as well as the bit of paper you do need to have a good work ethic, one day you might have to work with someone like me!

Maureen Reynel was presented with an honorary fellowship. Maureen is usually known as the FIND lady. She was born in Ipswich, the youngest in a family of seven children. She has fostered for 17 years and adopted two sons.

Maureen says the cornerstone of her life is her Christian faith. She was a youth worker helping with the national Christmas Cracker project as the Ipswich Coordinator in 1990.

Taking any food left each evening from her Princes Street restaurant to the Ipswich Homeless Families Unit or the Womens Refuge, she soon learned of greater needs. This prompted Maureen to start FIND, the Families in Need charity.

FIND received the Queens Award for Voluntary Services in 2005, celebrates 25 years of service in 2015 and estimates to have helped around 50,000 people.

Maureen, whose originally aim remains that every child should have a good clean bed and not go hungry was awarded an MBE in 2009 and received the High Sheriff of Suffolks Volunteer of the Year award in 2013.

Maureen has fostered for 17 years and adopted two sons. She is supported by her husband Widge.

Receiving her award, Maureen said FIND, families in need, individuals, people who could be your neighbour. We care for anyone, for everyone, wherever there is a need. This town and its surrounding areas are very precious to me, the children who one day will be sitting where you are and those who wont, children where no opportunities come their way and children who reach teenage life with mental health issues and they have given up. You are the caretakers of our future; you are the ones who are going to be caring for me and my peers. You are the ones who are going to have to guide the little ones who come along, dont fail them, and dont fail your capacity. We all have the capacity to help one another; dont look down on anyone who is already down. The smile you give a stranger could be the only smile that they receive that day. That hand your hold out, the hand of friendship. You have your aims, your aspirations, and your goals going forward but be prepared because sometimes when you take a route through life, something happens and there is a diversion. Be prepared to divert you never know where it might lead you. I am so grateful and thankful that I have a town of people that I can care for and one day maybe one of you will take over from me, that you will be the lady from FIND, there is work to be do. The hungry will always be us, the poor will always be with us, but we need as many hands on deck to make sure we care for one another.

Honorary Awards recognise notable contributions to the educational or cultural well-being of society, in business, industry, commerce or enterprise, for academic distinction, for public or community service or an exceptional contribution to UCS.

Hundreds more graduates will receive their awards in the final day of ceremonies tomorrow. UCS will also recognise three other individuals for achievements within their field, Graham Butland, Terry Baxter and Nicky Slater.