Ann Griffith presented with Honorary Fellowship

The Rt Hon. Elfyn Llwyd, Pro-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, presenting Ann Griffith as an Honorary Fellow

The Rt Hon. Elfyn Llwyd, Pro-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, presenting Ann Griffith as an Honorary Fellow

18 July 2023

Ann Griffith, who has lived on five continents over the last four decades but has always nurtured her strong Welsh roots, has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Aberystwyth University.

Educated at Ysgol Gymraeg and Ysgol Ramadeg Ardwyn in Aberystwyth, Ann Griffith then studied Education through the medium of Welsh at the university in Aberystwyth. 

She completed her teaching certificate and studied Theology at Manchester University, where she spent six years as chaplain to foreign students. It was here that she met her husband, an American, and in 1983 the pair went as volunteers to Lesotho to work with refugees from South Africa; their three children were born there and were all raised able to speak Welsh. 

She spent over two decades living in Lesotho, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, where she always tried to learn the local language, and spent her time working as a primary school teacher and on humanitarian work.

Since arriving in the United States in 2007, among other things she has worked as a refugee teacher, been a county organiser for the Obama campaign and helped with arrangements for the Women's March in Washington DC in 2017. 

Wherever in the world Ann has lived, she has always maintained a strong connection with Wales.

She is the United States Heddwch Nain/ Mamgu co-ordinator and has been developing links between Wales and the United States. 

She is Vice-President of Cymdeithas Gymraeg Washington DC, and Vice-President of Undeb Cymru a’r Byd. She was appointed Leader of Wales and the World for the 2022 National Eisteddfod.

Ann Griffith was presented as Honorary Fellow by Professor Mererid Hopwood, Chair of the Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University, on Tuesday 18 July 2023.

Presentation of Ann Griffith by Professor Mererid Hopwood:

Pro Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, graduates and supporters.  It is an honour and a privilege to present Ann Griffith as a Fellow of Aberystwyth.

Ann: Croeso. Lumelang. Namascar. Buenas Tardes. Welcome.

Five greetings in some of the languages our honourable Fellow has learnt on her life’s journey:  Welsh and English, yes – but also Spanish, Sesotho and Hindi.

Every self-respecting family must have ambassadors. Reliable individuals who can represent ‘home’ away from home. Ann, Ann Griffith, is one such individual. An Alumna of this University and an Aberystwythian through and through.

Born in Carmarthenshire she came as a two-year-old to Beth-seilun, and on this enlightened homestead she learnt from her parents that one of life’s most valuable gifts is the ability to embrace all people, whoever they may be, with the same respect and love. Along with her two sisters – Gwawr and Nia – she enjoyed the company of students from all corners of the world, all backgrounds and orientation, as they were made welcome in their home. Then, when the time came for Ann herself to become a student, it was Bangor’s loss and our gain that she ended up coming to Aberystwyth to study Education through the medium of Welsh in that innovative Department under the direction of Professor Jac L. Williams.

At the end of her first year, as the Wanderlust had already taken hold, she and her sister Nia travelled from Aberystwyth to Tehran to stay with one of those international students who had become a family friend. From Aberystwyth. Please note. Aber was where the journey started. Some seem to think that Aber is the end point, the destination ... but we, all of us here today, know full well that it also the beginning. Ends and beginnings are matters of perspective. Today you, our new graduates, are all starting your next journey from here, Aberystwyth. Onwards.

Ann went from Aberystwyth to Newport to work with young people. From there to Manchester for her second degree – this time in Divinity, and her journey sped up after that. She met the American - Steve Hollingworth – her ‘enaid hoff cytûn’ (soul mate) to borrow the poet, R Williams Parry’s turn of phrase. The great adventure had begun.

To Lesotho, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India ... Ann worked with refugees and taught, Steve was employed by charities working with economic development and responding to disasters. And their three children came to the world in Africa, becoming Welsh-speaking Internationalists.

The story of this multilingual family has been the subject of a good few television programmes, but more recently we see Ann as a regular commentator on current affairs relating to the events in their now hometown of Washington DC.

Her dedication to humanitarian causes – such as the 365 Walk in India to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, has continued since settling in the USA – and the emphasis is increasingly on women’s affairs. Then there was the famous Women’s March in 2017 and her work with the Herd on the Hill, a charity that helps carry urgent messages from people across the USA to the desks of politicians around the Capitol.

More recently, Ann has become prominent as a link between Wales and the USA in the context of our work on the remarkable Women of Wales Petition for Peace in 1923. ... It will be her privilege to tell you more about that.

Yes, we welcome Ann here today as Vice President of Undeb Cymru’r Byd, the Union of Wales and the World, but more importantly as a friend to our University and town and one who will, I know, be able to share a word of wisdom and inspiration with you, the students and stars of our gathering.

Pro Chancellor, it is my absolute pleasure to present Ann Griffith to you as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Ann Griffith was presented as Honorary Fellow by Professor Mererid Hopwood, Chair of the Welsh and Celtic Studies

Aberystwyth University Honours 2023

Each year, Aberystwyth University confers Honorary Awards on a small number of distinguished individuals in recognition of their outstanding achievement and contribution.

Aberystwyth University awards celebrate individuals who have roots in, or connections to, the region and have either: made an exceptional and outstanding contribution to the development of the University over a prolonged period; gained recognition for national or international excellence in an academic area relevant to the University; or made a significant contribution to the cultural, academic, educational, professional or economic arena.

The 2023 Honorary Fellows are (in order of presentation):

  • Helen Prosser, Director of Teaching and Learning at the National Centre for Learning Welsh
  • Tina Evans, ‘Human on Wheels’ inspirational blogger and motivational speaker, and television presenter
  • Ben Thompson, Short Film Programmer at Tribeca Festival in New York
  • Ann Griffith, Leader of Wales and the World at the 2022 National Eisteddfod
  • Professor Dato' Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Professor of Law at MARA Technological University in Malaysia
  • Kate O’Sullivan, veterinary surgeon for Mill Referrals, Director of Ystwyth Vets and British Small Animal Veterinary Association volunteer
  • Phil Thomas, veterinary surgeon, Director of Ystwyth Vets and Director of Iechyd Da
  • Ian Gwyn Hughes, Head of Public Relations at the Football Association of Wales and former BBC Wales football correspondent.