Professor Marcia Worrell 1966-2020

A tribute.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Professor Marcia Worrell, who died on the morning of 14 April 2020.

Marcia was a great inspiration to all who knew her. Her kindness, intelligence and devotion to justice and equality in the face of exploitation will be sorely missed by all. She was the daughter of parents who came to England from the Caribbean, and the sister of an older brother, Floyd and a younger brother, Ian, whose children (Leah and Dylan) Marcia was particularly close to. She had a large loving family across the UK, Caribbean and the United States. 

Starting in 1985, she completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Reading. She then went on to complete a Doctorate at the Open University under the supervision of Wendy Stainton Rogers in what was then the Department of Health and Social Welfare. Alongside her PhD research on child abuse and neglect (which used qualitative methods to deal both sensitively and practically with the ethical, psychological, legal, social and political complexities of this challenging topic) she also acted as a researcher and course team member on a range of innovative courses on child protection. Her whole-hearted commitment to education was clear throughout her career, and she was a long-term accredited member of what is now the Higher Education Academy. 

Marcia acquired her first permanent lectureship in 1992 at the University of Bedfordshire (formerly the University of Luton) where she helped to set up the first British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited qualification at that University. During this phase she also became a core member of the Beryl Curt Collective, contributing to the landmark 1994 book Textuality and tectonics: troubling social and psychological science (Open University Press). This was a radical group of psychologists who articulated an innovative critical approach to psychology. As part of Beryl, she drew upon her own research to show how problems that are typically theorised and tackled at the individual level are in fact related to broader ‘cultural tectonics’ which shape and give rise to the discursive practices through which issues like child abuse and neglect are made sense of and acted upon. 

In 2004 she moved to the University of Roehampton, where she took up the role of Programme Convenor for Psychology in 2007. During that time she also served on the BPS Research Board and chaired the Board of the Children’s Legal Centre. She was awarded a joint Roehampton Teaching Fellowship (2010-2013) in recognition of her work on learning and teaching in higher education. Marcia was an educational innovator, initiating and putting into practice students-as-partners learning approaches even before these were fully recognised as excellent practice in the HE sector. One example of this was how she personally encouraged and supported final year UG students in organising and presenting at their very own academic conference, a concept which was subsequently taken up in other departments and institutions. 

Marcia was also a long-standing committee member, and Chair, of the Psychology of Women (latterly, the Psychology of Women and Equalities) Section of the British Psychological Society, leading the celebrations for the Section’s 30th anniversary. Marcia engaged in political activism in her international work including in South Africa and, notably, in Cambodia where she was part of a development to set up the first Psychology Masters Programme in the country. Staff and graduates of the programme remember her with great fondness.

Her final role was a Professorship at the University of West London where – in addition to her formal responsibilities – she was a central part of the establishment of The London Policing Research Network which aimed to ensure that wide-reaching decisions regarding police practice are informed by up to date, relevant research. Marcia helped to initiate and drive forward a culture shift which will transform police education in the Metropolitan Police Service ensuring that the values she espoused will be ingrained in future policing in London. 

In acquiring this Chair, Marcia became one of the small number of black women Professors in the UK. Life was not always easy for her, but she confronted friction with the help of a wonderfully honed wicked sense of humour, and she rarely lost the glint in her eye. Amidst all this work, she never ceased to be there for her family and friends when needed. Her friends, colleagues and students will miss her unique combination of generosity, determination, and joy. All who knew her well were touched by her dynamic social presence, joyful laughter and by her unbreakable larger-than-life heart. It seems that until the end she never asked what others can do for her, but what she can do for others. There will not be another Marcia Worrell, but her example will continue to inspire generations of caring, intelligent and politically engaged psychologists and practitioners to come. 

Paul Stenner, Lindsay O’Dell, Rose Capdevila, Wendy Stainton Rogers, Orly Klein, Sharon Cahill, Gina Pauli, Angel Chater

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