Graduates inspired by War Horse novelist and Olympic medallist

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Chichester University graduates heard speeches from the world famous author of War Horse and an Olympic hockey medallist in yesterday’s graduation ceremonies.

The world-famous author and his wife Clare were receiving honorary fellowships of the university for their contribution to literature and education.

The award took place at the first of six ceremonies held over two days at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Students at the first ceremony were receiving degrees in education, and Mr Morpurgo stressed that teachers did one of the most vital jobs for society.

Mr Morpurgo, who taught in the Chichester area in the 1960s, congratulated the students on their success and said: “Teachers, to me, are the most important people - well, alongside doctors if you want to get picky!”

Mr and Mrs Morpurgo then each shared an extract from their book “Where My Wellies Take Me”, with the author treating the audience to a song from the musical of his book War Horse, with a rendition of the folk song The Year Turns Round.

The couple founded Farms for City Children which provides experience of farm and countryside life for inner-city children.

The couple said attending the ceremony had acted as a home-coming.

“We started our married lived here,” said Michael.

“It’s been a huge honour to be part of the setting out in life of these young people who are going to be doing the greatest job in the world - teaching.”

Clare said: “For us it’s a great home coming. Chichester is a very important part of our lives.”

Clare and Michael set up Farms for City Children in 1976.

“It grew and grew and now we have three farms taking children from all over the country and we’re taking in 3,000 children every year.”

Clive Behagg, vice-chancellor of the university, said: “We always try to find inspirational people.

“The work Clare and Michael have done has been a pioneering educational achievement. They are wonderful and inspirational people.”

Alex Danson, English field hockey player and bronze medallist in the 2012 Olympics,

As well as teaching hockey and engaging with the university’s student ambassador programme, providing inspiration to students, Alex also graduated three weeks ago from an Open University Degree.

“It’s such a lovely university. I’ve grown up in an area like it. It’s a family friendly village. It’s very welcoming.

“I feel very honoured to come here.”

Alex gave a speech during the ceremony in which she spoke of how she came to get to where she is today.

Many graduates approached her after and thanked her for her inspirational words.