Swansea University has awarded Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, with an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments and contributions to society.
Mr Rees was presented with the DLitt (Doctor of Letters) award on Wednesday 26 July by Professor Ryan Murphy, Executive Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, during the degree ceremony for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Marvin Rees studied at Swansea University, obtaining a BSc Econ in Economic History and later an MA in Politics, graduating in 1994.
Upon receiving the honorary award, Marvin Rees said: “Swansea University is a special place for me. In the 1990s, it provided a way out of the circumstances of my childhood. I really learned a lot: about myself, people who weren’t like me, and how to learn… and of course, how to play rugby for the university!
“It was special for me to attend Swansea because my grandfather was from Merthyr Tydfil. He was the son of a miner and, despite his academic ability, was too poor to attend higher education. It meant a lot to him that I went university at all, and to a Welsh university in particular.
“I will always be grateful to Prifysgol Abertawe and the City of Swansea for the nurturing environment that they fostered. They gave me a platform to forge friendships that are still with me. Receiving an honorary degree here today is an immense honour: diolch yn fawr iawn.”
Professor Murphy said: “I am delighted to have presented this honorary award to such an esteemed alumnus of Swansea University. Marvin Rees has accomplished so much and has contributed so much to society that he is entirely deserving of this honorary award.”
His professional journey began at Tearfund before working with Sojourners in Washington, DC and President Clinton’s advisor, Dr Tony Campolo. Upon his return to the UK, he worked as a broadcast journalist at BBC Bristol, supported the BME-led voluntary sector at the Black Development Agency, and contributed to promoting race equality in mental health services with NHS Bristol's Public Health team.
Marvin Rees holds two master's degrees: in Political Theory and Government from Swansea University, and in Global Economic Development from Eastern University, Pennsylvania. He is also a Yale World Fellow and a graduate of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. He entered the political arena after graduating from Operation Black Vote and the Labour Party’s Future Candidates programmes.
In May 2016, Marvin Rees was first elected as Mayor, and he was re-elected in May 2021. He holds the distinction of being the first person of Black African heritage to become a directly elected Mayor of a major European city.
Throughout his first term in office, he achieved numerous milestones, including the delivery of almost 9,000 homes, the announcement of a mass transit system, providing over 3,500 children with quality work experience, and developing the One City Plan. He led the successful bid to bring Channel 4 to Bristol and the city's response to both the climate and ecological emergencies, as well as the pandemic and cost of living crisis. In 2022, he delivered a TED talk about the role of cities in tackling the climate crisis. Marvin is also an honorary fellow of RIBA, and was recently shortlisted for the World Mayor Prize 2023.
Marvin Rees serves as Chair of Core Cities UK, Chair of LGA City Regions board, Co-Chair of Urban Futures Commission, founding Member of the Mayors Migration Council, Leading Member of the Global Parliament of Mayors, and Member of the Advisory Panel for the Work Foundation, among others.