The University of Warwick has awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to Heidi Meyer, Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.
Ms Meyer hopes her award will help her in her mission to encourage women of all ages to experience education.
She is the first female Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital, a community of retired and wounded soldiers founded in 1571. She was appointed in 2016 after a career in the Army and as an adviser to the US Government and NATO, and has taken on the challenge of securing the hospital’s future.
She said: “The Lord Leycester Hospital is an icon of Warwick – it’s a medieval gem, and it stands for 700 years of governance, civil society and philanthropy, in the heart of Warwick. At the moment it’s a heritage site at risk, so a lot of my work will be galvanising the local community, in Warwick and Warwickshire, to ensure that the Lord Leycester Hospital has a future.”
The Hospital is as relevant as ever and has recently welcomed new resident Guardsman John Dawson, who suffered serious head injuries in Helmand, Afghanistan.
Ms Meyer said: “He has really blossomed in the environment we offer him. Physical injuries can be looked after by a good team of experts but there’s always this spiritual, personal element that finds sanctuary in environments like ours, where there are other men – and women, if you include myself - who have served in battle. It’s good to be in an environment of kindred souls.”
As the first female Master in the Hospital’s long history, Ms Meyer is aware of the opportunities the position gives her to inspire other women.
She said: “I would like to be in a position to be able to give back in some way, from what has been for me an extraordinary career, so I absolutely jump at the chance to be a role model for young women.
“I came in as a British Army officer when there weren’t many women in the British Army, so it was difficult to have a female role model.
“I recognise how important it would have been to me, because it can be tough at times.”
Ms Meyer is a passionate advocate for women’s education. She came late to university study herself, starting her undergraduate degree at the age of 26, and describes the experience as “absolute magic - when I discovered that you could go in a classroom and learn.
“You’re never too old to experience that, and you should absolutely grasp the opportunity if you can, at any time in your life. Any time in your life that you have an opportunity to expand your knowledge of the world that we live in - is just an amazing thing to do.”
Addressing the men and women graduating alongside her, Heidi said: “Supporting education for women – not only in this country but in counties that are less privileged – is really, really important.
“Whether you’re male or female, whenever you have the opportunity to support women to be all they can be – that is something to be very proud of and it contributes to our greater wellbeing in the end.”