Readers choose People's Degree winners

Four people who have devoted their lives to helping others are to be awarded honorary degrees by the University of Leeds.

The four won most votes from Yorkshire Evening Post readers in a "People's Degree" celebration, run jointly by the University and the YEP, to identify and honour Leeds people who have made a significant contribution to the city and its people.

Nominations were made by people across the city, and a shortlist of six men and six women was drawn up. In our poll the four attracted two-thirds of all the votes cast.

They are:

* Mabel Parris, 81, who is Pastor of the Bethel Apostolic Church serving the inner-city community of Hyde Park in Leeds.

* Arthur Cockroft, 83, who has devoted his life to helping youngsters become involved in athletics in Leeds.

* Al Garthwaite, of Vera Media, a social enterprise which for over 20 years has documented the lives of communities in Leeds.

* Ruth Errington, who has been an inspiration to generations of young women through the Girl Guide movement in the Hyde Park area of Leeds.

University Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur said: "An honorary degree from our university is precious, and in the year in which Leeds celebrates its 800th birthday, we are delighted that the city has chosen who we should honour.

"The competition to select recipients for 'People's Degrees' has been a terrific success. These are four real unsung heroes who have dedicated their lives to the people and the city of Leeds over a period of some 200 years between them, doing extraordinary things with incredible dedication.

"We look forward to conferring the degrees on December 7 at a special ceremony at the climax of a week of events – 'Leeds 800: The University celebrates!'"

YEP editor Paul Napier said: "The competition has captured the imagination of our readers. We had a long list of nominees from which a strong shortlist was drawn up. Every person on that shortlist would have been a worthy recipient of an honorary degree. I'm delighted to see that honours are going to four people who have had such a positive impact on our city."

Pastor Parris came to Leeds from Jamaica over 50 years ago. She set up Bethel Apostolic Church and became its first pastor. She also founded the Kenyan Orphan Sponsorship Trust which funds two East African orphanages for children whose parents have died of AIDs.

Arthur Cockroft's passion in life has been, and remains, athletics. Through Leeds City Athletics Club he has encouraged and coached thousands of young athletes. At 83 he still runs regularly.

As a founder of Vera Media, Al Garthwaite has enabled marginalised people to record their problems, aspirations and solutions on issues including mental and physical health, community safety and services and has enabled many excluded individuals to enter mainstream education and employment.

Ruth Errington, known to many people as "Berry," has been a Girl Guide Leader at Wrangthorn church in inner-city Hyde Park since she was a guide over 50 years ago.

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