Birmingham-born Novlette Rennie received an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University in recognition of her outstanding contribution to equality in sport. The award was presented at a ceremony in the city by the University’s Chancellor, Professor Robert Winston.
Novlette is head of Sporting Equals Ltd, which she joined at its launch in 1998. The organisation is dedicated to promoting racial equality in sport and providing people from minority ethnic groups with better opportunities to participate, volunteer and work within the sector.
Novlette, who was awarded an OBE in the 2007 New Year Honours, says: “It’s such a great honour, and quite overwhelming, to receive this doctorate, especially coming in the same year as being awarded an OBE.
“It’s been a struggle at times for me, as a black woman, to make an impression in the sport sector and it has often been quite a lonely experience with no other role models to lean on. So I like to see this honorary doctorate as recognition of the commitment and passion I have brought to my work, and I hope other people will see that there are opportunities there if you work hard enough.”
Her work with Sporting Equals Ltd has seen Novlette drive equality issues up the sporting agenda. The organisation has worked with all the major sporting organisations in Britain, encouraging more than 150 of them to sign the Racial Equality Charter for Sport – a public pledge to pursue an agenda of racial equality and the first of its kind in the world.
The pioneering nature of this work was recently recognised with a £2 million award to its Sport for Communities project, which will allow Sporting Equals to promote involvement and equality at grassroots level for the first time.
Professor Philip Jones, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, says: “Our University has always taken issues of equality and diversity very seriously, setting out clear policies and even recruiting diversity champions to ensure those values are part of everything we do.
“These values extend into our teaching. We have a very strong tradition of excellence in sport, and we are only too aware of the massive impact that sport can have on communities of all shapes and sizes. That’s why we recognise the wonderful work of Novlette and are delighted to present her with this honorary doctorate.”
The honorary title of Doctor of the University is awarded to people who have achieved distinction in the fields of learning, the arts, public life and community service, or have made a distinctive contribution to Sheffield Hallam, the city or region. Sheffield Hallam has been awarding Honorary Doctorates since gaining university status in 1992; it has been awarding Honorary Fellowships, based on similar criteria, since 1969.