Cancer charity pioneer and education leader awarded honorary degrees

By Press Office

Today, 8th July, a charity chief who has led a cancer support revolution and a leading authority in Scottish educational management were awarded honorary degrees from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (QMU).

Laura Lee is Chief Executive of Maggie’s, the charitable organisation that provides centres offering practical, emotional and social support for people living with cancer. Under Laura’s leadership, Maggie’s has transformed the way people with cancer are supported in the UK. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of her work in improving the lives of people with cancer by placing patients and their families at the centre of service delivery.

Keir Bloomer has dedicated his life to educational management and public service. He was Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire Council and President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and, following his retirement, he served as Chair of Court at Queen Margaret University. He was awarded an honorary degree for services to Scottish education and for his significant contribution to the strategic development of Queen Margaret University.

Both Laura Lee and Keir Bloomer were presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University . They were joined by 850 students and their families at an impressive ceremony in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

Laura Lee initially trained as a nurse in Edinburgh. In London, she specialised in oncology nursing before returning to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh to work as clinical nurse specialist in the Breast Cancer Unit.

Laura nursed Maggie Keswick Jencks, the visionary behind the Maggie’s Centre model, during Maggie’s latter months with cancer. Maggie Jencks’s wanted to create a whole new approach to cancer care – to establish a place where people with cancer could access emotional and psychological support and information in a relaxed and homely environment. Following her death, Laura Lee worked tirelessly to turn her patient’s dream into a reality. The following year, in November 1996, the first Maggie’s Centre was opened in the beautiful building designed by Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy.

Built in the grounds of NHS hospitals, Maggie’s Centres are places with professional staff on hand to offer the support people need , including information, social and psychological support, as well as practical help and advice. Each Centre is unique, designed by world-renowned architects and rooted within their local community.

Since its inception, Laura has been a key figure in the growth and development of the charity. She became Chief Executive of Maggie’s in 1998 and today the charity has 19 centres in the UK, including an online centre which operates 24/7.  When the new centre opens in Forth Valley later this year it will be the eighth in Scotland and the 20 th in the UK.  There is also a Centre in Hong Kong with more planned for the UK and abroad.

Professor Brendan McCormack, Head of the Division of Nursing presented Laura’s oration at the graduation ceremony. He said: “Laura has developed a new approach to providing care - she has helped healthcare professionals to flourish and to truly respond appropriately to the clinical, mental, practical and social needs of patients and their families. In that sense, she epitomises the underpinning values of the nursing programmes provided at Queen Margaret University, as well as reflecting the aims of our Centre for Person-centred Practice Research, by ensuring that patients and families are at the centre of service delivery.”

Keir Bloomer started his career in education as a history teacher at Glenwood Secondary School in Castlemilk, Glasgow. Whilst serving there, Keir became increasingly involved in the affairs of the Educational Institute of Scotland, becoming a member of its National Executive in 1975, and serving as a full-time official from 1981, in which role he was responsible for negotiating the framework of the national teachers' contract.

In 1984, Keir moved into educational management, rising to become Executive Director of Education and Community Service, and latterly, Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire Council. In 1999, he was appointed as President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. On his retirement from full-time employment, Keir joined the Court of Queen Margaret University in 2007, and served in this role for nine years, the last five as Chair of Court.

Professor Petra Wend, Principal of Queen Margaret University, said: “During his time as Chair of Queen Margaret University’s Court, Keir oversaw many important developments within the University underpinning current and future successes, including the framing of our institutional strategy for 2015-2025 and re-defining our vision as that of a ‘university of ideas and influence’.

Professor Petra Wend concluded: “We are delighted to honour both these highly influential individuals – Laura Lee for her dedication to person centred care which has enabled Maggie’s  to transform healthcare services for people with cancer and their families, and Keir Bloomer for his lifelong commitment to education, and for supporting QMU’s vision to become recognised as a university of ideas and influence. Both Laura and Keir’s achievements in their specialist areas reflect the relevance of the university’s work and its aim of serving communities and improving quality of life.”

Notes to Editor

About Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Our vision is to be a university of ideas and influence.

Our mission is to foster intellectual capital with both a theoretical and practical focus, giving students and staff the confidence to make a real difference to the world around them.

We are known not only for excellent, relevant teaching, research and knowledge exchange but also for the care and respect we give our students, staff and partners. As a thriving campus university we strive to create a community without borders, helping to improve people's lives locally, nationally and internationally. We are ambitious and enterprising, and, in everything we do, we are committed to social justice.

We have flagship areas of expertise in Health and Rehabilitation, Creativity and Culture and Sustainable Business.

About Maggie’s

Find out more about Maggie’s on their website.

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University on T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239, E: or Jon Perkins, Press and PR Officer on T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07989 386968, E:

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