Thursday November 24, 2022: The University of Gloucestershire has today conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Science on St John Ambulance’s Chief Executive, Martin Houghton-Brown.

It’s more than 30 years since Martin started training to become a teacher at St Paul’s and St Mary’s College, and he later returned to complete a postgraduate certificate in biblical studies.

Since then, he has enjoyed a series of influential roles and the university’s accolade recognises his significant career in public service – in particular, in the field of public health – together with Martin’s consistent commitment to helping others.

Having joined St John at the beginning of 2018, Martin has seen the charity through its biggest challenge in generations – supporting communities and the NHS through the Covid-19 pandemic. From March 2020 to this year, St John people have given more than 1.6 million hours of their time, including a million hours from the almost 30,000 new volunteers recruited and trained to administer lifesaving vaccinations.

Storytelling is key

“I am deeply humbled by this great honour, which means so much to me but is – like all honours – not really mine,” said Martin, whose acceptance speech focused on the importance of storytelling in leadership and enabling people to do more, achieve more, gain more and give more.

“This honorary doctorate belongs to my father, who taught me to tell stories and is still telling stories at the age of 82.

“It belongs to every volunteer who has told themselves ‘I will give myself the free time to make myself able to save a life, inspire a young person, or provide care for someone in need’. St John people tell themselves that story and, in doing so, they change the world and make it a better place.

“This is for everyone who has ever told themselves a simple story, as I did many years ago; maybe if I just take a chance and try that new adventure, that new opportunity, that bigger challenge, I can do even more with my life than I had hoped.

“At every stage in our lives it is important to tell stories and – more importantly – listen to them and I hope everyone graduating or being awarded other honours today gets to keep on doing that until they are at least 82”

Proud father

Martin received his award from the University of Gloucestershire’s Chancellor, Lord Michael Bichard, and he was joined at today’s ceremony in Cheltenham by his husband, daughters and his dad, Jeremy Houghton-Brown.

“Martin always wanted to follow in his grandfather's footsteps to become a doctor, so it is a matter of immense pride for us all that he is being awarded this honorary doctorate, in part for all he has done for healthcare,” said Jeremy.

“None of us wanted to face the trials of the pandemic but we all know that Martin was exactly where he would have wanted to be, where he could make the biggest difference; with his leadership of St John Ambulance's enormous contribution to the vaccination effort, he was again achieving remarkable things.

“But from the point of view of his children – my grandchildren – as well as being a caring father, he has always sought to achieve his vision of progress and sustainability in whichever charitable organisation he worked for.

“So, his honorary doctorate is a fitting marker by his university for his remarkable achievements in leading service to others."