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Honorary degree was not expected says former Dean

Former Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, has described his honorary degree from Ulster University as a surprise and ‘a huge honour.’

John was presented with an Honorary Doctorate at a ceremony in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on Wednesday July 4. That evening he gave an address at the Ulster University Post–Graduation Dinner held in Belfast Cathedral.

Former Dean of Belfast, The Very Rev John Mann, has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for his civic contribution in Belfast from Ulster University. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)
Former Dean of Belfast, The Very Rev John Mann, has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for his civic contribution in Belfast from Ulster University. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

John was Dean of Belfast for six years before moving to Dorset last September as team rector of the Parish of Swanage with Studland. He has been recognised by Ulster University for his civic contributions to Belfast.

Earlier this year, John, a graduate of Queen’s University, was awarded the Lambeth Cross by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his ecumenical work.

At the ceremony on July 4, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt). 

“I never expected this,” said John. “It is a huge honour. I am particularly touched by it because the relationship between the cathedral and the university has been so important to St Anne’s for a long time and I feel that the connections will continue to strengthen as the Belfast Campus develops.

“It is particularly important for St Anne’s with Ulster University being the civic university in the city. Ulster University is bringing a lot of tenants and staff into the area in a way that has not happened before, and that will have a big effect on the community.

“Over the last few years discussions with residents of the area, including the cathedral, have been done sensitively and wisely.”

Former Dean of Belfast, The Very Rev John Mann, has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for his civic contribution in Belfast from Ulster University. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)
Former Dean of Belfast, The Very Rev John Mann, has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for his civic contribution in Belfast from Ulster University. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

The award citation from the university read:

His tenure as Dean of Belfast was marked by building relationships and fostering a sense of community within the regular congregation. In 2017 he installed the first Roman Catholic priest as an ecumenical canon in addition to previously installed Presbyterian and Methodist ministers.

Under his leadership, Belfast Cathedral has become a focus for civic events and as a sacred civic space. Over the past three years, thousands have visited the Cathedral and guided tours and school visits to the Cathedral are also now regular daily features.

He also has worked tirelessly with other religious leaders in Belfast and has made a profound contribution to the civic understanding and acceptance of the concept of a Cathedral Quarter, and has ensured that the Cathedral remains at the heart of it.

John has also raised over one million pounds for local charities, during his pre–Christmas (Black Santa) sit–out for charity.

Other names honoured by the university include Derry actress Bronagh Gallagher, superbike racing champion Jonathon Rea, and the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall.

Commenting on the recipients of the honorary degrees, Ulster University Vice–Chancellor, Professor Paddy Nixon said: “Our honorary graduates demonstrate leadership, integrity and progressive thinking, determination, talent and creativity all of which are central to the core values and character of the university.”

 

The Very Revd John Mann’s speech at the Ulster University Post–graduation Dinner in Belfast Cathedral is available here.