Essex University nursery founder Elaine Dixon from Dedham awarded British Empire Medal

Elaine Dixon has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List for services t

Elaine Dixon has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List for services to higher education and charitable fundraising. She was manager of the University of Essex’s day nursery for 36 years. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The former general manager of Essex University’s day nursery said she was “blown away” after finding out her name was on the New Year’s honours list.

Elaine Dixon set up and ran the nursery on the university’s Colchester campus, which looks after the children of staff and students at the institution as well as those of the general public.

Now she is to receive the British Empire Medal for services to higher education and charitable fundraising.

The citation for the award said Mrs Dixon had “created a model of excellence” at the nursery and “developed a financially sustainable nursery from a small, term-time only facility housed in a temporary building to a modern, outstanding rated, all-year-round nursery in the purpose-built home”.

The 60-year-old from Dedham only received the letter from the Cabinet Office on November 20.

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“It came completely out of the blue,” she said. “I had to read it twice because I was really, really surprised.”

Mrs Dixon said she didn’t believe the letter until she got a call to confirm she wanted to accept the honour.

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Following that keeping the news a secret was a challenge.

“Obviously in the letter it says to keep it in confidence,” Mrs Dixon said. “The hardest thing was not telling anyone.”

Talking about the work which got her nominated for the BEM Mrs Dixon said: “I have worked very hard in child care all my working life and for it to be recognised in this way just blew me away really.

“I’m really delighted to be nominated for this award.

“The university is a really exciting place to work and no two days are the same.

“You can appreciate how many children have gone through the nursery in 36 years and it was a privilege to look after them.

“I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it. The university must be very proud of its nursery to have nominated me.”

While working at the nursery Mrs Dixon organised a lot of fundraising activities.

“Obviously all the children at the nursery are really fortunate children so we have supported the hospices, we have always raised money for Children in Need and we have always been part of different child care fundraising events.

“I never wanted any recognition for it, it was all part and parcel of it.”

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