A standing ovation greeted the man who has been a guiding light and figurehead of Cumbria’s university since its inception as he accepted its first honorary doctorate.
University of Cumbria Chancellor, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, gracefully accepted the honour during a ceremony at Carlisle Cathedral.
He is also the first person to wear the distinctive blue and silver doctorate robe that will be worn by those who will receive PhDs and other research awards from University of Cumbria.
It follows the Privy Council’s successful granting of Research Degree Awarding Powers to the university earlier this year following a rigorous assessment.
Since his inauguration as Chancellor on 1 August 2007, Dr Sentamu has shaken the hands of around 33,000 graduates of Cumbria’s university.
Born in Uganda in 1949 and trained in law, Dr Sentamu was ordained as a priest in 1979, before becoming Bishop of Stepney in 1996, and Bishop of Birmingham in 2002. He was installed as Archbishop of York in 2005.
He is Primate of England and Metropolitan, a member of the House of Lords and a Privy Councillor.
More of his achievements and positions include serving as chairman of the EC1 New Deal for Communities in the London Borough of Islington, a scheme set up by the Government to help bridge the gap between some of the poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country. In 2005, he became President of the YMCA and four years later Dr Sentamu set up his Archbishop of York Youth Trust and also launched his online charity, Acts 435.
Dr Sentamu is Chair of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission which is investigating the human and environmental impact of the activity of multinational oil companies operating in Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta.
He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His interests include music, cooking, reading, athletics, rugby and football. He is married to Margaret, and they have two grown-up children, Grace and Geoffrey and two grown-up foster children.
Professor Diane Cox, University of Cumbria's director of research, said: “In the last 12 years Dr Sentamu has supported and guided our university through periods of significant change, investment and development.
“He has promoted academic excellence throughout his tenure and endorsed our activities toward achieving research degree awarding powers – successfully attained in March 2019.
“Dr Sentamu will retire in June 2020 and we pay tribute to the vision, enthusiasm and determination he has shown throughout his life and career – he is an inspirational leader and ambassador for young people as the leaders of today.”
It was announced in October 2018 that Dr Sentamu will retire as Archbishop of York in June 2020 - three days before his 71st birthday. At the time he confirmed it would allow him to ‘complete the work’ to which he’s been called to do ahead of his retirement.
Professor Julie Mennell, University of Cumbria vice chancellor, said: “It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be in the position to mark the incredible and outstanding achievement of our Chancellor. All of us who make the university community of which our Chancellor is our figurehead and guide subscribe extremely strongly and passionately to the university mission and our values.”
Dr Sentamu said: “I feel like a parent watching a child grow. I’m leaving at a time when the finances, the teaching and research, the vision and the mission of the university are now flourishing.
“The vice chancellor has been here for three years and has strengthened considerably the leadership team and sense of university community, members of whom are all determined to act together to make this a university not only for and of the region, but also the UK.”
Another 1,000 graduands have had their degrees and awards conferred by the Chancellor this week at a series of eight ceremonies in the cathedral.
They have completed programmes across a diverse range of areas including the arts; health; education and teacher training; business, industry and leadership; and science, natural resources and outdoor studies.