Mark White OBE – member’s services to education recognised

‘I started my working life on 26 August 1982 and joined our union the same day’

“I sit on the boards of many organisations and, when we are asked to declare any interests, I’m always proud to say: ‘I’m a member of UNISON’,” says Mark White.

And Mark has no shortage of things to be proud of.

Having spent four decades helping education transform lives, he received his OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his work earlier this year and recently picked up the honour at Buckingham Palace.

Arriving at the then Teesside Polytechnic in 1976 as an 18-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent, to study social sciences , he only left earlier this year when he retired as head of the vice chancellor’s office and secretary to the board of governors.

“I started my working life on 26 August 1982 and joined our union the same day,” he stresses.

“I’ve always believed that we’re stronger together than apart and am enormously proud to be a member of UNISON.”

And he adds that he’s been particularly “humbled and honoured by the congratulations and good wishes I’ve had from UNISON members on my getting the OBE”.

Now chair of Stockton Riverside College, visiting fellow of Teesside University and chair of Middlesbrough’s Abingdon primary school, he notes: “Teesside got into my blood.

“It has been great to me and, while it might sound like a cliché, I try to give something back.”

And he has – so much so that his OBE citation mentions that it is awarded particularly for his work in the area.

Alongside the day job, his dedication has meant taking on a vast array of voluntary roles with countless schools, charities, community groups and professional organisations.

Looking back at all he has achieved, Mark considers his proudest moments to be seeing Stockton Riverside College receive a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted in 2014 and being part of the growth of Teesside University.

As well as taking the reins as chair of the college’s governing board, he’s also set to start a postgraduate course on the history of railways in Victorian England at the University of York in his “spare time”.

He won’t be giving up his union membership any time soon, though.

“I haven’t been the most active member,” he admites, “apart from a period on the branch exec and attending conference once or twice– that, in particular, was an enormous privilege.

“I’ve always treasured our union and it’s democracy though, and hope to become an active retired member.”