3:11pm Friday 25th January 2013
By Haydn Lewis
DOREEN Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, received an honorary degree from the University of York.
Mrs Lawrence, was awarded an honorary doctorate at a ceremony at the university’s Central Hall for her campaign work since the murder of her son, pictured, in a racial attack in London 20 years ago.
Her efforts prompted a judicial review which concluded that racism in the Metropolitan Police led to the failure of the murder inquiry into Stephen’s death.
The 60-year-old collected her honorary degree yesterday from Dr Rowland Atkinson from the university’s department of sociology for “devoting a large part of her life to social justice and equality”.
He said: “Doreen’s campaigning has brought changes to policing, civil rights and attitudes to race to allow people to live without fear and discrimination.
“Doreen’s work has challenged prejudice and promoted the vision of a positive community in her son’s name.
“She has fought a tireless campaign against racism and inequality and guards against complacency.
“It takes great courage to condemn such behaviour.”
At the ceremony Mrs Lawrence reflected upon Stephen’s ambition to study architecture at university before his death.
She said: “I wish to thank the University of York for bestowing this great honour upon me. I see education as the most precious gift that we can give our children.
“The (Macpherson) report, released in February 1999, highlighted that there was racism in all institutions.
“In the face of this, I wanted to help young people in black and ethnic minorities achieve their ambitions and so I decided to set up the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. Since then I have since worked to try and make a difference.
“Today has been very emotional for me. I find myself choking up when I try and speak about what a great honour this is.
“I feel that all the work I have done over the years has truly been recognised and that is very special.”
Other recipients of honorary degrees at ceremonies yesterday and today included Japan’s ambassador for the human rights of people affected by leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, along with historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes and Frances Patterson QC, of the Law Commission for England and Wales, who represented the university during the public inquiry into Heslington East.
The university confers honorary degrees on individuals who have made a significant contribution to society. Recipients often have existing links with the university and are chosen from nominations made by its members.
• See The Press on Monday and Tuesday for more pictures and a full list of people who were presented with their degrees
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