Wally Brown CBE, described today as “one of the most important individuals in Liverpool’s history” has been made an Honorary Doctor of Education by Edge Hill University.
Described by a friend as having a “big heart” and someone who “always wants to do the best for Liverpool”, Wally was an instrumental mediator during Liverpool’s Toxteth Riots in 1981, and in both a professional and personal capacity has grown and developed various important community organisations and educational institutions.
Wally said: “I feel privileged to be getting this honour, especially when I feel I’m just doing my job to the best of my ability, but it’s nice when people recognise that. I don’t think I’ve done anything special but it’s nice when people recognise the affect that my work has had on people, and I feel hugely privileged.”
Born in Toxteth, Liverpool, Wally was previously Head of Community Education in Lambeth, and an adult education manager in Manchester. He was Principal of Liverpool Community College from its creation in 1992 until his retirement in 2008 and during that time he transformed it into one of the most successful and outstanding further education colleges in the UK.
He started his career with the General Electric Company in 1959, then in 1975 left to become a youth worker and then a community education worker at the Methodist Centre in Toxteth. At the same time he began his studies in higher education and continued through to 1989, studying at the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool where he obtained a Post Graduate diploma in Adult Education and a Masters in Ethnic Studies and Race Relations.
He described going to University as “taking the blinkers from my eyes. One day you’ve got a black and white television and the next day you’ve got a colour one.”
At the time of the Toxteth riots, in 1981, Wally was Chair of the Community Relations Council, and acted as a mediator between the police and the local community. These negotiations included direct communications with Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine. It was also at this time Wally became the Chair of the Merseyside Community Relations Council, the first black person to hold the chair, and held this position from 1980 to 1982. Wally’s role in the organisation led to the setting up of the Council Advisory Committee on Race.
Throughout his career Wally has been the Chair of many key organisations such as the Liverpool Learning Partnership, Commission for Black Staff in Further Education, Toxteth Regeneration Group and was the joint founder member of the Network for Black Managers. He was also a board member of the Liverpool Culture Company, Liverpool Biennial and Trustee for the Anthony Walker Foundation.
Wally was made a CBE in 2002 for services to education and awarded freedom of the City of Liverpool in August 2012. Now retired from his post at the college, he continues to contribute to the local community as a Non-Executive Director of Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust Board, and also the Chair of Liverpool Community Health Audit Committee and a Member of the Equality and Diversity Group.
He said: “Teaching graduates today are going into a profession which is very difficult, you work very hard but the role is crucial in the development of the next generation of people. When you teach young children you become very important in their lives as you get to shape their formative years.
“My advice is you need to be really sure you do the best you can. As you move through your career and progress, maybe to head teacher you need to remember to be yourself. Young people always know if you are being genuine and a person they can trust. It’s important to do the best you can and be yourself, don’t try and play a role or be someone else.
“The graduates today going into the teaching are so lucky, they will have a career which will give them so much fulfilment and joy.”
Find out more about teacher training at Edge Hill University here.