Congratulations to Doctor Patrick Vernon, OBE, one of our Patrons, who was presented with the Honorary Award Doctor of Letters by Wolverhampton University at the Graduation ceremony held at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton on Thursday 20th September 2018.
The Encomium was delivered by Professor Laura Caulfield PhD.
Vice-Chancellor, I am honoured to present Patrick Vernon upon whom the Board of Governors and the Academic Board wish to confer an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton. Such a Degree is conferred in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contribution in their professional life and one which is demonstrably in sympathy with the University’s mission and ethos.
Patrick Vernon was born here in Wolverhampton in 1961. He spent his school days in the city, later moving to Manchester for University and then to Warwick for further study, before moving to London in 1989.
Patrick Vernon is an inspirational individual. His contributions to, and leadership in, community activism, politics, and cultural heritage, are truly outstanding.
Let us begin with Patrick’s Leadership in Public Life in Health, Equalities and Politics:
Patrick spent over 20 years’ working as a senior manager in the voluntary and public sectors, responsible for developing and managing frontline services around regeneration, welfare rights, mental health and the NHS. Indeed, Patrick’s contribution to the sector was acknowledged with an OBE in 2012. Patrick played a key role in raising the profile of equality issues with Ministers and senior civil servants, leading to his appointment as a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Mental Health. Patrick has been Chair of the Healthwatch Advisory Group and - among his many achievements in this area - in 2015 Patrick began a new role as Non- Executive Director for Camden & Islington Mental Health Foundation Trust.
Patrick’s involvement in local government has been extensive. He served as a Councillor in Hackney for eight years, and there played an active role in supporting families and local communities who have been victims of knife and gun crime. In 2012 he was a member of the Metropolitan Police Independent Commission on Mental Health and policing, which looked at 50 cases over a five-year period of individuals with mental health problems. Patrick worked closely with the Chair, interviewing a number of family members and voluntary and community sector organisations on issues in relation to race equality and experiences of mental health and the criminal justice system in London. These are just some of the examples of Patrick’s extensive and influential public and political roles.
Moving on to Patrick’s Leadership in Cultural Heritage:
Over the past 14 years Patrick has developed significant work around the identity of migrant communities, particularly African and Caribbean diaspora communities. He is responsible for the one-hundred Great Black Britons campaign, which has become hugely successful in raising the profile, history, and achievement of the African and Caribbean community. Patrick is involved in significant outreach around cultural history with museums, libraries, archives, schools, and community organisations. He has advised the BBC, The National Archives, Heritage Lottery, The National Trust, Royal Geographic Society, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Council (to name but a few).
In June 2007 Patrick was selected as a Clore Fellow where he completed a community engagement secondment at the Imperial War Museum on post war conflict and refugee communities. In 2008 Patrick produced and co-directed a documentary called ‘A Charmed Life’, which was premiered at the international Black Film Festival in London and the Black Film Festival in Berlin. In 2010 Patrick produced a second documentary called Speaking Out and Standing Firm, working with young people to interview African and Caribbean war veterans.
Patrick was the first person to call for the national celebration of "Windrush Day", to recognise the migrant contribution to UK society, marking the day in 1948 when the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, bringing the first big group of post-war migrants from the West Indies to Britain. In January 2018, the government in the House of Lords agreed to explore the idea of Windrush Day and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Windrush. Patrick was appointed to Chair the planning committee for NHS Windrush 70th Anniversary celebrations and award ceremony in Manchester.
Patrick is currently the Director of Black Thrive, a programme that tackles mental health inequalities and improves the wellbeing of the African and Caribbean community in the London Borough of Lambeth.
Patrick’s connection to Wolverhampton remains strong. For example, he has been working in close partnership with Dr Shirin Hirsch here at the University with the project ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ and he has been an invited speaker on Black local history and heritage at the Wolverhampton Archives.
Vice-Chancellor, in sharing our values, and commitment to reducing inequalities, improving mental health and wellbeing, and increasing the visibility of migrant communities, I present Patrick Vernon for the conferment of an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton. Thank you.