Scholarships > Sir Tom Cowie Memorial > 2013/14 Recipients

Sir Tom Cowie legacy fuels Sunderland students' ambitions

Sir Tom Cowie Recipients 2013/14

Two Sunderland students were selected as recipients of the first ever Sir Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship Awards receiving £10,000 each to support their academic studies.

Michael Spowart and Jade McKenna, who were both about to begin the final year of their degrees at the University of Sunderland, were announced as the winners of the award, which was set up in memory of the Wearside-born entrepreneur who died in 2012, aged 89.

Sir Tom was a long-term supporter of the University and believed passionately in its principles of affording those with talent, regardless of background, the opportunity to enter higher education. As part of his legacy, the Sir Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship Awards were set up to support students within the Faculty of Applied Sciences and the Faculty of Business and Law in helping to achieve their full potential.

The Scholarship is awarded to a male and female student born and bred in Sunderland who, at the end of their penultimate year of study has demonstrated an excellent academic record and is on track to secure a First Class Honours Degree or upper Second Class Honours Degree. Trustees were also looking for additional evidence that the student has the potential for entrepreneurial success in their chosen field following graduation.

Both Michael and Jade demonstrated outstanding commitment to their course but were having to work long hours outside of their academic studies to support themselves financially.

David Gray, FRICS, Chairman of Trustees of The Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust, said: “The scholarship is very much in the spirit of Sir Tom, his ethos of hard work from humble beginnings, and it represents our commitment to the values of the University. I am greatly impressed with Michael and Jade’s tenacity throughout their courses and this scholarship rewards their efforts and hard work over the course of their degree”.

Former plasterer Michael, 40, from Houghton-le-Spring, was looking for a change in career, when the recession hit in 2008, resulting in a downturn in the construction industry.

Having always enjoyed supporting youngsters on work experience placements in his job, and volunteering his skills with training provider Springboard in Sunderland, he was inspired to become a teacher.

He completed an Access to Higher Education course at Sunderland College where he developed an interest in science and began a Physiological Science degree at Sunderland.

He said: “I feel like I have been given a second chance at Sunderland. I never tried that hard at school and had no interest in science, but now I’m hooked on the subject and really appreciate the second chance I have been given.

“Once I have finished my degree I’m hoping to study a PGCE at Sunderland, so being awarded this Scholarship has taken the pressure off me financially and will help so much in my final year. Like many mature students we all have the same pressures to balance, from childcare and work to our academic studies, so this money will allow me to achieve the best grades I can.

“I was overwhelmed to be selected for this award after being up against so many other excellent candidates. It’s great news.”

The award will allow Michael to continue his studies while working part-time at Durham Community Business College, teaching construction, invaluable work-based experience to help increase his chances of a job once he graduates.

Dr Judith Kuit, Programme Leader for  Physiological Sciences, said: "Michael is a mature student: mature in terms of his rationale for undertaking the course; his dedication to his studies; his focus on his future career; his support of the programme. He works extremely hard and his efforts have paid off as his work achieves very high marks and he is a pleasure to teach.

“He is the class student representative and takes this role very seriously but objectively and he is trusted by his fellow students who all look up to him. I am delighted that he has received this award and acknowledgement of his hard work and dedication."

Jade, 22, from Sunderland, also believes the award will be a financial support to her in the final year of her Healthcare Science degree, which is integrated with a clinical placement at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

She’s currently holding down a part-time job as an industrial cleaner at Nissan while completing her studies.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this scholarship, it means so much, and will certainly help towards getting the best grades I can. The money will support my tuition fees and living costs. I’ll also be able to reduce the hours at Nissan and concentrate my efforts on my academic studies in the final year.”

Jade, who is hoping to work in a micro-biology laboratory when she graduates, added: “I am really enjoying the placement at Sunderland Royal Hospital where I’m testing all different kinds of samples for infectious diseases. It’s fascinating work and I’m learning so much.

 “The course has been fantastic, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that my younger sister is now starting her degree in Healthcare Science at Sunderland this month.”

Dr Lewis Bingle, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, said: "Jade is an outstanding and dedicated student whose work this year has been consistently very good or excellent. As part of her degree course, she is undertaking a clinical placement in a hospital microbiology lab and clearly has a bright future ahead of her in biomedical science.”

Click here to go back to the Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship.

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