It was a proud moment for the son of the UK’s first black matron as he unveiled a plaque to mark the topping out ceremony for a university building named in his mother’s honour.
The first building on the University of Huddersfield’s £250 million National Health Innovation Campus has been named the Daphne Steele Building.
And on Friday a topping out ceremony was held, attended by Daphne’s son Robert along with other family members and friends.
The National Health Innovation Campus is set to be a major training and innovation centre for healthcare in the North of England.
There will be first class training and learning facilities, student-led clinics open to the public and a hub for entrepreneurial academic activity. Specialist clinical teaching facilities will provide unparalleled support for workforce development.
The ceremony was attended by university vice-chancellor Prof Bob Cryan CBE and guests included James Wimpenny, executive director of construction firm BAM Construction, Anthony Langen, managing director of architects AHR and Russell Green, project manager of construction consultants Gleeds.
Completion of the Daphne Steele Building is expected in September 2024.
Daphne trained at St James’ Hospital in Balham, South London, after emigrating to the UK from Guyana in 1951. She worked in the US but returned to the UK and served as a nurse at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire before moving to Manchester as deputy matron at a nursing home.
When that home closed, she was encouraged to apply for the position of matron at St Winifred’s Hospital in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. She became the first black matron in Britain and her appointment made news around the world.
Mr Steele spoke of his pride and said his mother would have been “stunned, blown away and surprised that this is part of her legacy.”
He added: “The scale of the thing is massive and everything I have heard about the innovative facilities plus the benefits to students and the wider community are fantastic.”
Prof Cryan said: “We were truly honoured when we were allowed to name this new building after Daphne, so I was absolutely delighted that Robert, along with members of her family and friends, joined us for the topping out ceremony.
“Daphne’s ethos of care and compassion allied to expertise is something that we hope everyone who studies and works in this facility will take with them. We are relishing the prospect of this building being fully operational later this year.”
Mr Wimpenny said: “This milestone marks not only the highest point of the build but also the culmination of the collaborative efforts of the client, design and construction teams.
“At BAM we are passionate about building inspiring spaces that empower learning and enrich the university experience, and that is exactly what we are delivering here at the university’s new National Health Innovation Campus.”
Plans for more construction on the site adjacent to the Daphne Steele Building are well underway with a planning application submitted in late 2023.