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Chaplain receives honour for services to higher education

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Published on 5, July, 2024

Reverend Chris Howson standing with his British Empire Medal
University of Sunderland Chaplain Reverend Chris Howson

University of Sunderland Chaplain Reverend Chris Howson has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) at Sunderland Minster.

Revd Howson has been recognised by this award for his services to Higher Education which was announced in the King’s New Year Honours list.

Revd Howson said: “For me, this honour is dedicated to my family, the University of Sunderland, the Diocese of Durham and all the people of this region who see Higher Education as a means to improve our communities and the lives of ordinary people from both near and far.

“Having devoted myself to chaplaincy here at the University of Sunderland for over a decade, I see the honour first and foremost belonging to a University which genuinely cares for its students and has enabled me to work with an amazing team of people committed to inclusion and compassion within the institution and the wider community.”

The ceremony took place in Sunderland Minster where Chris received the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Lucy Winskell OBE.

Revd Howson joined the University as a Chaplain in 2012 and has served students, staff and the region ever since.

“When I went for the job as Chaplain to the University of Sunderland in 2012, I was very excited," he said.

"The University prided itself on being a ‘civic university’, determined to serve the region and offer life changing courses for local people as well as bringing a diverse set of international students into the city.

“It was a melting pot for young people to develop their ideas and skills, and the University clearly wanted to provide for their spiritual growth as well, whatever faith background they came from. With this holistic approach from the University, and with a great team of Interfaith Chaplains to work with, it continues to be a privilege to serve the Diocese of Durham in this role.

“I have real pride in the way the University, city and Minster has also undertaken to welcome those seeking sanctuary in Sunderland, and I have seen the real benefits for students and refugees working together to help the local community. Mackems, Ukrainians, Syrians, Iranians, Sudanese – a formidable force for good when working in unity.

“I never thought a working-class lad from Staines would end up as a priest, let alone get a distinction whilst studying at the University of Sunderland for a Masters in Inequalities and Society, so I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I am fortunate to have had. It has taught me to make the most of every God given day.”

Reverend Chris Howson receiving his British Empire Medal

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland, commenting on the honour, said: “I am delighted that Chris Howson has been recognised in the New Year Honours and I want to offer him my warmest congratulations.

“I know that this award will be widely welcomed by the whole University of Sunderland community and, indeed, beyond given the outstanding contribution Chris has made to the welfare and wellbeing of students, staff and the wider community.

“Chris is the embodiment of someone who lives their faith and we are all enriched by the example of dedicated and committed service that he provides day in and day out.”