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Beckenham Baroness Floella Benjamin becomes the only living black person in the UK to have a sculpture

17:17 14 February 2017

Floella Benjamin at the unveiling of her sculpture at the University of Exeter

Floella Benjamin at the unveiling of her sculpture at the University of Exeter

Archant

The former children’s TV star had her bronze bust unveiled at the University of Exeter last week

A top university has unveiled a sculpture celebrating well-loved TV presenter and Baroness of Beckenham Floella Benjamin - making her the only living black person in the UK to have a sculpture on public display.

Baroness Floella Benjamin has been a chancellor at the University of Exeter since 2006, and carried out her last graduation ceremony in December.

The former Play School presenter moved to Mackenzie Road in Beckenham in 1960 from Trinidad, and has taken on the title as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham after she was introduced to the House of Lords as a Life Peer in 2010.

Since becoming chancellor at the university, the presenter and actress has become known for hugging students at graduation, rather offering the traditional handshake.

Now she has been immortalized with a bronze bust created by the university, which was unveiled at a special ceremony last week.

Baroness Benjamin said: “I am delighted that my 10 fantastic years as chancellor of the University of Exeter will be celebrated with this wonderful sculpture.

“Who would have thought?

“One of my main and most enjoyable duties as chancellor was attending graduation and being able to personally greet each and every student.

“It was such a joy and a privilege to meet so many motivated young people, and I always did my best to inspire them to change the world.”

The striking bronze bust, which also feature’s Baroness Benjamin’s hands to symbolise her friendly greeting, has been placed at the heart of the uni’s Streatham campus.

She added: “To have the sculpture feature so prominently in the very heart of the campus’s student area is an honour and a reminder of those wonderful ceremonies.

“It also serves as a legacy of my overwhelming delight at being a part of such an important day in thousands of young people’s lives.”

Professor Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Exeter said: “We are delighted to be able to celebrate Floella’s 10-year tenure as Chancellor of the University of Exeter with this wonderful sculpture.

“As well as capturing Floella’s warmth, personable and friendly character, the sculpture provides a fitting reminder of the positive and lasting impact she had on so many of our student’s time here at Exeter, not least during their graduation ceremonies.”

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