THE FIRST female Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick is determined to safeguard the future of the historic institution.
Heidi Meyer, who was appointed to the role of Master in 2016, was speaking after receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Warwick.
The 600-year-old medieval buildings of the former Guilds of Warwick in High Street became a place of retirement for former soldiers in 1571 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign – and remain so to this day.
The position of Master was only held by male clergymen and retired military officers for over 400 years until the appointment of Ms Meyer, following her career in the British Army and as an adviser to the US Government and NATO.
She has now taken on the challenge of securing the hospital’s financial future.
Ms Meyer said: “The Lord Leycester Hospital is an icon of Warwick – it’s a medieval gem, and it stands for 700 years of governance, civil society and philanthropy, in the heart of Warwick.
“At the moment it’s a heritage site at risk, so a lot of my work will be galvanising the local community, in Warwick and Warwickshire, to ensure that the Lord Leycester Hospital has a future.”
The hospital remains as relevant as ever and recently welcomed new resident guardsman John Dawson who suffered serious head injuries while serving in Afghanistan.
Ms Meyer said: “He has really blossomed in the environment we offer him.
“Physical injuries can be looked after by a good team of experts but there’s always this spiritual, personal element that finds sanctuary in environments like ours, where there are other men – and women, if you include myself – who have served in battle. It’s good to be in an environment of kindred souls.”
As the first female Master in the hospital’s long history, Ms Meyer is keenly aware of the opportunities the position gives her to inspire other women.
She added: “I would like to be in a position to be able to give back in some way, from what has been for me an extraordinary career, so I absolutely jump at the chance to be a role model for young women.
“I came in as a British Army officer when there weren’t many women in the British Army, so it was difficult to have a female role model. I recognise how important it would have been to me, because it can be tough at times.”
Ms Meyer is a passionate advocate for women’s education. She came late to university study herself, starting her undergraduate degree at the age of 26.
“It was absolute magic when I discovered that you could go in a classroom and learn.
“You’re never too old to experience that, and you should absolutely grasp the opportunity if you can, at any time in your life. Any time in your life that you have an opportunity to expand your knowledge of the world that we live in – is just an amazing thing to do.
“Supporting education for women – not only in this country but in counties that are less privileged – is really, really important.
“Whether you’re male or female, whenever you have the opportunity to support women to be all they can be – that is something to be very proud of and it contributes to our greater wellbeing in the end.”