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Honours for our Essex graduates

  • Date

    Wed 20 Jan 21

Dr June Freeman, smiling

Five Essex graduates received awards in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours including an MBE for one of the founders of the Colchester Women’s Refuge and a CBE for the Managing Director of Great Western Railway.

Supporting women to rebuild their lives

Dr June Freeman, who graduated in 1984 with a PhD Sociology, receives her MBE for services to the women’s refuge movement.

Her work assisting the foundation of the Colchester Women’s Refuge, which opened its doors in 1977, has helped thousands of women in the area seek support and access the resources needed for them to rebuild their lives.

Speaking about what inspired her to join the refuge movement, Dr Freeman said: “Domestic violence wasn’t on the map [in the 1970s]. People didn’t talk about it. It was a private matter and the police were very loath to address the issue.

“The time was absolutely right. As second wave feminism got underway, women all over the country began to be horrified by domestic violence. Gradually the refuge movement put the question of domestic abuse onto the mainstream agenda.”

Dr Freeman is especially proud of the work she and co-founders did in changing attitudes towards the women who sought sanctuary: “We did not want to be patronising or condescending. These women had been bullied and bruised for long enough and it wasn’t our place to tell them how to make themselves better.

“The idea was that we put the initiative into their hands. It was part of the feminist agenda, to help them to stand on their own two feet and live independent lives. The atmosphere and attitudes in refuges were very new for the time.”

Now called Next Chapter, the Colchester and Tendring refuge employs 66 members of staff and supports hundreds of people every year.

Despite the success in changing attitudes and political opinion, Dr Freeman - who recently helped celebrate the refuge movement through the Heritage Lottery Funded exhibition You Can’t Beat a Woman - knows there’s still more work to be done.

“Domestic violence has been practiced for thousands of years with impunity and you are not going to get rid of it in fifty years so there’s still a long long way to go. Certainly it’s been a socially changing movement though.”

Transforming passenger experience

Mark Hopwood, who joined British Rail as a 17-year-old in the British Rail Telephone Enquiry Bureaux in Reading, receives a CBE for services to transport.

Now Managing Director at Great Western Railway (GWR) Mark, who graduated in 1993 with a BA Government, was able to complete his degree after his bosses spotted his talent and granted him leave to study.

In the last 13 years Mark has transformed GWR and steered the business to its best ever customer satisfaction figures. In 2019, under his leadership, GWR successfully introduced the biggest timetable change in 40 years with more services, more seats and faster journeys, bringing brand new and refurbished trains to every part of the network and has seen staff engagement scores reach their highest ever levels.

Speaking about his CBE, Mark said: This is an honour that reflects the efforts of thousands of railway colleagues I have worked with throughout my 31-year career. The railway plays a part in the daily lives of millions, and I am very proud and delighted that my small contribution has been recognised in this way.”

Other awards

Also receiving New Year’s Honours are:

Philomena Creffield, BA Philosophy, 1990, who has received an OBE for services to International Legal and Judicial Co-operation

Carol Doggett, BSc Healthcare Practice, 2012, who has received an MBE for services to leadership and nursing care for intensive care patients and staff, particularly during Covid-19.

Professor David Ormerod QC, LLB Law, 1998, who has received a CBE for services to criminal justice

Picture of Dr June Freeman courtesy of the Colchester Gazette.