A member of the House of Lords who is also a broadcaster, actress and advocate for children’s welfare will be the speaker at the International College of the Cayman Islands’ commencement ceremony next week.
Baroness Floella Benjamin, known in the U.K. in the ‘70s and ‘80s as one of the presenters of children’s BBC television shows “Play School” and “Play Away,” is currently Chancellor of the University of Exeter and a staunch campaigner for children’s rights.
Born in Trinidad but brought up in Britain from the age of 10, she was the first Trinidadian woman to be made a life peer in the House of Lords – in 2010.
“It is an honor to welcome Baroness Benjamin to celebrate commencement with us,” said ICCI President David Marshall. “We were looking for an amazing voice to celebrate this outstanding class. Baroness Benjamin’s life of professional excellence and service represents just that.”
The baroness said she immediately agreed to be speaker at commencement ceremony after Mr. Marshall invited her. “I did so because I use every opportunity to inspire and motivate people of all ages to achieve and improve their lives, a subject I speak about frequently in The House of Lords,” she said.
“My message is always the same wherever I go and that is, be worthy, never give up and keep smiling, because winners smile. And to those who will be receiving their degrees and diplomas I say education is your passport to life. Go out and change the world, be the person people can trust and make a difference in this confused and wounded world.”
After leaving school, Baroness Benjamin worked briefly in banking and accounting before becoming an actress in 1970, appearing in numerous films and television shows. In 1987, she formed her own film and television production company, making children’s TV programs.
She continues to appear in film, TV dramas and children’s shows.
In 2001, she received an OBE for services to broadcasting and 2004 she was awarded the BAFTA Special Lifetime Award for her services to children’s television.
She is also an author of more than 30 books, including “Coming to England,” which is now used as a resource tool in schools; in 2003, it was adapted by her production company into a film for the BBC.
She led a 20-year campaign to create the role of a state minister for children, which achieved its goal in 2003. She also leads a campaign to save U.K.-made children’s television programs and has been spoken out about children accessing online pornography.
She has spent 10 years as Chancellor of the University of Exeter, a role from which she will step down this year.
ICCI commencement ceremonies will be held Feb. 4 at the Westin resort.