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Queen Mary University of London celebrates Founders’ Day

Queen Mary University of London marked its first ever Founders’ Day by bestowing two honorary degrees to Queen Mary alumni at a celebratory event.

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Founders’ Day celebrates Queen Mary’s long and rich heritage. Its former institutions, Queen Mary College, Westfield College, St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College and The London Hospital Medical College, were established to provide hope and opportunity for the less privileged.

Those same values continue to shape the University today as it looks to improve lives locally, nationally and internationally. Queen Mary has been recognised as a world-leading university in research (ranked 7th in the UK in the latest Research Excellence Framework), and a leader in education (ranked in the top ten per cent of universities globally in the 2024 QS World Rankings). It is also a sector leader in engagement. Queen Mary contributes a total economic impact of £4.4 billion to the UK economy and was the first UK university to receive the Platinum Watermark from the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement in 2021.

Queen Mary is distinctive in its commitment to diversity. It has been named the top university in the country for social mobility and is home to a diverse community representing over 170 nationalities, because, as the University’s Strategy 2030 recognises, it is through the diversity of ideas that original thought takes place.

On 28 November, former students Dame Cally Palmer and Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu were awarded honorary degrees for their distinguished careers and outstanding contributions to society.

Dame Palmer, who graduated with a BA in History in 1979, is Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden and National Cancer Director for NHS England, responsible for the national strategy in improving survival and quality of life for all those affected by cancer. Her work at the forefront of research and patient care has improved the lives of people with cancer and driven progress in prevention of the disease.

Dr Trebi-Ollennu graduated in 1991 with a BEng in Avionics. He is Principal Robotics Engineer, Deputy Chief Engineer and Assistant Division Manager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has been associated with numerous NASA Mars missions including the Mars Rover and InSight projects. Dr Trebi-Ollennu also founded the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring the next generation of Ghanaians’ interest in science and technology.

Guests in attendance were able to hear from both honorands, with Dame Palmer reflecting on her journey from history graduate to NHS leader and recipient of a Damehood for her contribution to cancer medicine, and Dr Trebi-Ollennu discussing his 20-year career at NASA, including his role in the delivery of Mars Rover missions.

Speaking at the event, Professor Colin Bailey, Queen Mary’s President and Principal, said: “Today we celebrate the achievements of our staff, students, alumni, and partners for their contribution over the years with our first ever Founders’ Day.

“Our four founding institutions shared a common mission - to provide hope and opportunity to the less fortunate of East London. Today as the unified Queen Mary, our commitment to the pursuit of excellence and social justice is just as relevant and urgent, to serve our nearby communities and open the doors of opportunity locally and globally to anyone with the potential to succeed. I am looking forward to this celebration of our heritage, but with an eye towards the future through investments in our life sciences research and work underway on new buildings to house our School of Business & Management.”

Guests in attendance at the 28 November event were also able to experience first-hand some of the groundbreaking research happening at Queen Mary and meet students showcasing their work exploring the University’s heritage.

Research on display included accent bias existing in the UK, improving health outcomes for South Asian people – made possible through Queen Mary’s close work with its local communities, and the importance of understanding home and what it means to people.

Students presented a range of works to event guests such as a series of short heritage films, a collaged timeline, and an interactive website featuring virtual tours of the founding institutions.

More information

To find out more about Founders' Day, please visit our dedicated webpage.

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