A pioneer in dementia care and the founder of Mary’s Meals will receive honorary degrees at the University of Stirling’s Highlands and Islands Graduation ceremony this week.
Dementia expert Professor Faith Gibson OBE and humanitarian Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow OBE will join almost 100 graduands at Inverness Cathedral on Friday 31 October.
Professor Gibson will be recognised for her outstanding contribution to social work and dementia care. She was instrumental in establishing the Dementia Services Development Centre in Northern Ireland, modelled on the internationally renowned Centre at the University of Stirling.
Memory loss is often cited as the most feared symptom of dementia and Professor Gibson also founded the Reminiscence Network of Northern Ireland, which promotes well-being by valuing memories.
“I’m immensely proud and delighted to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling,” said Gibson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work in the University of Ulster.
“I’m inspired that Stirling has recognised my work, particularly the importance of reminiscence as a means of communication. Any means for improving communication and building relationships between people who have dementia and those caring for them or living with them is vitally important.
“The people at the Dementia Centre in Stirling, they are the pioneers and standard setters and now to have this shared knowledge in Northern Ireland ensures the development of critical services in support of people with dementia.”
MacFarlane-Barrow is the founder of global charity Mary’s Meals, which provides one meal every school day to chronically hungry children in developing countries. His honorary doctorate, in recognition of his charitable work and for recognising the value of education in tackling child poverty, will see the former Argyll salmon farmer come full-circle, having left his studies at Stirling in 1987.
He said: “It’s a great honour to be receiving this degree from the University of Stirling, not least because I attended the university briefly as a teenager. Back then, I was incredibly shy and decided to leave, not really knowing what I should do with my life. Now, a few decades on, I’m preparing to go back and speak about what I did end up doing - leading an organisation of people who are determined to help chronically hungry children receive an education by providing a daily meal in schools within our world’s poorest communities.
“The University of Stirling is a centre of innovation and excellence and it means a lot that Mary’s Meals is being recognised by the University in this way. Our response to hunger and poverty is a simple one that works and Mary’s Meals is now reaching more than 920,000 children with a daily meal in school. But with more than 57 million children still out of school, there is much more work to be done.
“I feel very blessed to be sharing in this celebration with Professor Faith Gibson OBE and a bright, young group of graduates who are about to embark on their own career journeys. Armed with their education, I urge them to go out and make the world a better place, in any way they can.”
The Highlands and Islands ceremony will celebrate the achievements of graduates including many from the University’s campuses in Inverness and Stornoway. They have completed a wide range of qualifications such as Nursing, Mental Health Professional Practice, Child Welfare and Aquaculture.
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling said: “Professor Faith Gibson’s tireless work to support those with dementia and their carers has been inspirational. Among her many contributions to the study of dementia is her book Reminiscence and Life Story Work, now in its fourth edition, which provides a practical tool for the professional carer and for those looking after a family member with dementia.
“Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow created the charity Mary’s Meals to feed children in some of the world's poorest communities, where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education. Founded in 2002 the charity has grown from providing meals for 200 children in Malawi, to a world-wide campaign, providing free school meals in hundreds of schools to almost one million children daily. I would like to congratulate both honorary graduates and each and every one of our students graduating in Inverness.”