Westonbirt School is gifted an MBE award from alumna Jean Marr’s estate
Recently the School was delighted to be gifted an MBE and a prestigious award from the Nutrition Society. Both were awarded to Westonbirt alumna, the late Jean Marr, who passed away in October 2021. Jean had a fascinating career in nutrition and dietetics, with both national and international recognition.
Jean first came to Westonbirt in 1941, but left before the Sixth Form. She was attracted to a career in dietetics, but on order to access this, she needed to have studied science at School and at that time science lessons were only available to Sixth Formers. She consulted the then Westonbirt headmistress, Miss Grubb, who suggested that she gained catering experience by coming back to the School to work in the kitchens, with enough time off to attend science lessons at no cost. Jean was grateful to Miss Grubb and Westonbirt, for this support, all her life.
Studying dietetics at college in Edinburgh, Jean participated in her first research project, looking at the dietary requirements of miners in Fife, and their calorific intakes. She worked closely with the miners’ families and got to know them well. She would recall how they made her welcome, even though the hungry families would have to wait for their dinner while she weighed every item of food for her research. Afterwards, she always carried a piece of coal to remind herself of the warmth and friendship she received, and also of the hardship the miners endured in their daily lives.
Following an appointment at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Jean joined the Medical Research Council’s Social Unit in London. In the late 1950s, she was involved in a project performing dietary studies of sample groups (totalling 337 men), searching for a simple data-collection method for large-scale studies. Such a method was not found, but the collected data was used for different analyses that were published for many years and until (in her case) her retirement.
Jean was Chairman of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) from June 1966 to June 1968. In 1968, she was awarded the MBE for services to Dietetics. In the early 1970s she represented the BDA on the International Committee of Dietetic Associations, in the later 1970s on the Committee of Dietetic Associations of the European Community, (of which she was President from 1978-1982), and also on the European Federation of Dietetic Associations. Fellowship, the highest honour which the BDA can bestow upon members in recognition of their achievements, was awarded to her in 1979. In 1985 she delivered the British Nutrition Foundation Annual Lecture – in over 50 years, she was the only such lecturer without the title Dame, Dr, Prof or Sir.
The Nutrition Society celebrated their 80th anniversary in 2021 with a special award to recognise those members who had made a significant contribution and helped the Society achieve the anniversary. Jean was one of the eight recipients of this award, which friends received on her behalf. After Jean’s death, it was decided that it should be gifted to Westonbirt School with the MBE.
Westonbirt is very honoured to be the custodian of Jean’s MBE medal and Nutrition Society Award. Pictured is Headmistress Mrs Dangerfield, with both awards.