Professor Berry has been inducted into the membership of the 2024 Martin Luther King Collegium of Scholars in the College of Ministers and Laity

A University of Exeter academic has been honoured for her work to promote social justice by Morehouse College, one of the USA’s foremost Historic Black universities. 

Helen Berry, Professor of History and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, has been inducted into the membership of the 2024 Martin Luther King Collegium of Scholars in the College of Ministers and Laity.

Others inducted into during the ceremony this month included Lord Simon Woolley, Principal of Homerton College and Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge, the Hon. Obi Asika, Director-General of the National Council for Arts in Nigeria and Kenneth Elmore, the 14th President of Dean College and pioneer of the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University.

The College has a proud tradition of honouring individuals whose life and work exemplify the ethical ideals promoted by its most prominent alumnus, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. 

Members of the Collegium of Scholars are leaders whose virtue ethical, spiritual, and moral example has helped change the world. Through being inducted they are asked to use their time and talent to support another generation of ethically inspired leaders committed to building a radically inclusive humanity.

Professor Berry’s research on the history of women, children, nonconforming genders and sexualities over two decades has focused on historically-marginalised people. Her book Orphans of Empire, the Fate of London’s Foundlings, published in 2019, documents what happened to around 6,000 orphaned and abandoned children raised in the London Foundling Hospital during the first hundred years of its existence. It was shortlisted for the Cundill Prize for History, awarded for works of global significance. 

Professor Berry has provided senior leadership in Russell Group universities for over a decade, including chairing a Vice Chancellor’s Committee on the legacy of Lord Armstrong at Newcastle University in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which changed representation on campus and secured funding for global majority student programmes. 

Since 2020 Professor Berry has served as Head of History and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for the HASS Faculty at the University of Exeter, and has promoted many equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.  In 2017, she was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be a lay member of the Pastoral Advisory Group advising on LGBTI+ inclusion.  The ‘Living in Love and Faith’ project led to the church sanctioning the blessing of same-sex couples in 2023. 

Professor Berry said: “I was proud and honoured to receive this award.  It was inspiring to meet global leaders from many different walks of life who make significant contributions to promoting social justice, which is so fundamental to our mission here at the University of Exeter.  It definitely wasn’t about complacency or ‘job done’ but challenged everyone present to renew our efforts in these difficult times.  Holding to the vision of building a radically inclusive humanity has never been more important.”