Laureation address: Donna Ross James

Honorary Degree of Master of Arts
Laureation by Professor Paul Hibbert

Thursday 7 December 2017

Vice-Chancellor, it will be my privilege and pleasure to present, in a few moments, two candidates for the degree of Master of Arts, honoris causa.

But first, I will take the unusual step of talking about both candidates together. Indeed, it is as hard to separate them today as it has been for their entire careers; Aileen Colford and Donna James have served this University together for 40 years, until their recent retirement.

Aileen began her career in 1976, and Donna followed in 1977.

In the decades that followed they have been the mainstay of the Graduation Office here, since the days when all of the certificates and graduation lists were manually typed… and if there was a single error, they were retyped, even if the work carried on into the small hours.

Generations of students will remember their calm presence: always ready with an emergency bow tie, or a tissue, or simply some reassurance. They have helped graduating students who remembered their parents, but forgot their tickets – and sometimes, students who remembered their tickets, but…

Over the years, they have helped 46,000 students to graduate; and even if one of them happened to be a Prince, they have looked after all of them with the same sense of duty and care.

Generations of academics will remember their patience too, when we inevitably suffer from professorial absent-mindedness. All of us involved in the graduation process, though, will remember their indefatigable energy and determination to make sure everything went smoothly for our graduating students.

They supported their colleagues too, with just the same level of care. As one very small example of their commitment, it is worth noting that I met them going into the University on a Saturday in June. Unsurprisingly, it was after graduation was over and everyone else was probably lying down, exhausted! It was also the day after they both had – at least officially – retired. They were going into the office to clean up, and make sure that everything was orderly for their successors. 

It is not going too far to say that they have personified the very best traditions of service in this University. And so it is only right that we honour each of them now, by bringing their tally of involvement in graduation up to 46,000… and two.  

Presentation of Donna Ross James

 Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Master of Arts, honoris causa, Donna James.

Donna, we honour you for your commitment to this University and its students, but also for your exemplary friendship and support for colleagues – not least Aileen Colford – for over 40 years.

Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of her exemplary service and dedication to this University and its graduates, I invite you to confer the degree of Master of Arts, honoris causa, on Donna James.