Dean and ‘voice for the voiceless’ honoured with Doctorate

“I have been interested over many years in how the arts, and especially poetry, can help us listen, speak, and think less thinly”

The Rev'd Canon Dr Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel and Fellow at St John’s College, has today been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Chester in recognition of his championing of education and human rights.

Dr Oakley received an Honorary Doctor of Education during a day of graduations featuring more than 150 graduands from the University Centre Shrewsbury who descended on St Chad’s Church to be presented with their degrees in the Shropshire town where he was born and raised.

Mark Oakley receiving Doctorate
Dr Mark Oakley after receiving his Honorary Doctor of Education from Professor Eunice Simmons.

An accomplished author and public speaker, Dr Oakley has been called ‘one of the most distinctive, intelligent and refreshing voices in the Church of England’ by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams. At today’s graduation ceremony he was also described as a ‘voice for the voiceless and a champion for the written word’.

After receiving his honour from Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Dr Oakley said: “I’m surprised and honoured in equal measure by this honorary degree of Doctor of Education by the University of Chester.

“I have been interested over many years in how the arts, and especially poetry, can help us listen, speak, and think less thinly. To explore this with others, of whatever age, is always a joy, as is the wide circle of friends that education richly brings into one’s life.”

Since 2020 Dr Oakley has been Canon Theologian of Wakefield Cathedral alongside his role at St John’s. His past roles have included Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe and Residentiary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, and he is currently Ambassador for Stop Hate UK and Patron of Tell MAMA, supporting Muslim victims of hate crime. He continues to work for LGBTQ inclusion in the Church of England.

In today's speech in his honour, attendees heard that Dr Oakley is ‘a pillar and inspiration that has managed to connect all his passions in the foundation of promoting and preserving the good in every human being’.

Mark Oakley at the ceremony
Image credit: University of Chester.

Reflecting on the achievements of the graduands, Professor Simmons added: “It has been a privilege to welcome The Rev'd Canon Dr Mark Oakley to join us today and to present him with an honorary degree recognising his achievements and how much he has given to society.”

Dr Oakley joined St John’s College in 2018 and has written eight books on the areas of poetry, literature and theology. In June he was awarded the Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

From 1996 until this year Dr Oakley was a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to HM The Queen and then The King. In July it was announced that he has been appointed Dean of Southwark and he will leave St John’s for his new role in London in December.

Published 21/9/2023

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