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University of York honours 11 for their contributions to society

Posted on 13 July 2010

A distinguished author, one of Britain’s leading film and television directors, the Archbishop of York, an architect of South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution and a woman who has become one of Britain’s leading scientists despite leaving school at 16 are to receive honorary degrees from the University of York this week.

Anthony Horowitz, Ken Loach, Dr John Sentamu, Justice Albie Sachs and Professor Carol Robinson are among eleven people who will be awarded honorary doctorates at the University’s graduation ceremonies on 14, 15 and 16 July.

The others are historian Professor Dame Janet Nelson, former University Registrar David Foster, science communicator Professor Averil MacDonald, leading Liberal Democrat Lord Navnit Dholakia, geneticist Professor John Bell and businessman Sir William Castell, who chairs the Wellcome Trust.

During their visits, Anthony Horowitz and Justice Albie Sachs will visit new buildings that will house the Department of Theatre, Film and Television and The York Law School on the University’s campus expansion at Heslington East. Justice Sachs will also visit the University’s Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Every year, the University confers honorary degrees on people who have made a significant contribution to society. Honorary graduates are selected from nominations by members of the University and often have existing links with academic departments or are York alumni.

Justice Albie Sachs

Justice Albie Sachs was an architect of the post-apartheid South African constitution and a judge in the Constitutional Court of South Africa until 2009. His legal career began at the Cape Bar, defending people charged under racist statutes and security laws. He was himself subjected to prolonged periods of detention without trial before going into exile in 1966. He studied and taught law in Southampton, before moving to Mozambique where he was blown up in a bomb attack in 1988, losing an arm and the sight in one eye. In 1990, he took part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. President Nelson Mandela appointed him to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court in 1994.

Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is the author and creator of the hugely popular Alex Rider series of books for children and the award-winning television drama series Foyle’s War. His other television works include Collision, Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Crime Traveller and Murder Most Horrid.

He graduated with a degree in English and History of Art from the University of York in 1978, the year he published his first book, Enter Frederick K Bower. In 2007, he was named ‘Author of the Year’ at the British Book Industry Awards, and is patron of EACH, the East Anglia Children’s Hospices charity.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

Born in Uganda, Dr John Sentamu graduated from Makerere University and practised law before coming to the UK in 1974. After reading theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge and Ridley Hall, Cambridge, he was ordained in 1979. He was consecrated Bishop of Stepney in 1996 and Bishop of Birmingham in 2002. Dr Sentamu was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Inquiry and chaired the Damilola Taylor Murder Review in 2002. He is patron of over 100 charities and a member of the House of Lords and a Privy Councillor. He has been Archbishop of York since 2005.

Professor Dame Janet Nelson

Professor Dame Janet Nelson is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London. A distinguished historian of early medieval Europe and Anglo-Saxon England, Dame Janet is a long-time supporter of the Department of History and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1982 and was its first female President. Dame Janet was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1996 and was Vice-President from 1999 to 2001. She was made a DBE in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to history.

Professor Carol Robinson FRS

Professor Carol Robinson is Royal Society Research Professor and Dr Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. She is a pioneer in mass spectrometry, a chemical technique which determines the mass of molecules. She left school at 16 and worked as a laboratory technician while studying part-time to degree level before completing her PhD in two years at Cambridge University. Her career has also included an eight-year break to raise her three children. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004 and is a past recipient of the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin award.

David Foster

David Foster was Registrar and Secretary to the University for 18 years and a key figure in the development of the institution. He oversaw the development of the Department of Health Sciences, the creation of the Hull York Medical School and the establishment of research centres including the Centre for Housing Policy and the Centre for Criminal Justice Economics and Psychology. David Foster is also a member of Heslington Parish Council, a board member of York Housing Association, a governor of Lord Deramore’s Primary School and trustee of the York Civic Trust and the Sheldon Memorial Trust. His time as Registrar and Secretary was the culmination of almost 39 years of service to the University. He retired in 2003.

Professor Averil Macdonald

Professor Averil Macdonald is a pioneer and leading exponent in the field of science communication. A York graduate, Professor Macdonald was a secondary school science teacher until a career break led to her development of a series of successful projects and materials designed to enthuse people about scientific research and careers. She wrote Outreach, a definitive guide that has transformed the way university science departments interact with schools. Now Professor of Science Communication at the University of Reading, her many accolades include the 2007 UK Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science Award and the 1999 Bragg Medal from the Institute of Physics.

Professor Sir John Bell FRS

Professor Sir John Bell is Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, President of the Council of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Government Office for the Strategic Coordination of Health Research. His research programme has contributed to a clearer understanding of Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Bell has been involved in the development of research programmes in genetics and genomics and was the founder of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. The founding director of three biotechnology start-up companies, Professor Bell is a non-executive director of Roche AG and a board member of UK Biobank

Lord Navnit Dholakia OBE DL

Lord Navnit Dholakia is Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and a campaigner on race relations and prison reform. He came to the UK at 17 to study at Brighton Technical College, later becoming a Liberal councillor in the city. He was also a member of the Commission for Racial Equality, and contributed to the work of the Police Complaints Authority and the Howard League for Penal Reform. Lord Dholakia is President of the National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders, and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Sussex. He was awarded the OBE in 1994 and made a life peer in 1997.

Sir William Castell

Sir William Castell is chairman of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest biomedical research charities. Previously, Sir William was President and CEO of GE Healthcare, part of the General Electric Company, of which he was also a Vice- Chairman. Sir William was Chief Executive of Amersham plc before its acquisition by GE in 2006. Sir William was Chairman of The Prince’s Trust. His work at the Wellcome Trust has included leading Project ENTHUSE which has raised £27 million to fund teachers visiting the National Science Learning Centre on the University of York campus.

Ken Loach

Film and television director Ken Loach was born in 1936 in Nuneaton, and attended King Edward VI Grammar School. He went on to study law at St Peter’s Hall, Oxford. His body of work stretches over 40 years, and is characterised by an unflinching willingness to explore controversial issues. He came to public attention in 1966 as the director of the television play Cathy Come Home, an examination of homelessness and poverty. His credits have included Kes, Hidden Agenda, Carla’s Song, and, in 2007, It’s a Free World, a film about migrant labour in Britain. His film and television work has won more than 60 awards, including The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a film about the Irish republicanism in the 1920s, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Notes to editors:

  • Professor Averil Macdonald will be presented for her honorary degree by Professor Brian Fulton, of the Department of Physics, at Ceremony One, 12 noon on 14 July
  • Professor Sir John Bell will be presented for his honorary degree by Professor Debbie Smith, at Ceremony two, 3pm on 14 July
  • Mr David Foster will be presented for his honorary degree by the University’s Pro-vice-Chancellor for Estates and Strategic Projects in Ceremony Three, 9.30am on 15 July.
  • Dr John Sentamu will be presented for his degree by the Provost of Vanbrugh College Rev Dr David Efird, of the Department of Philosophy in Ceremony Four, 12 noon on 15 July.
  • Professor Carol Robinson and Sir William Castell will be presented for their honorary degrees by Professor Paul Walton, of the Department of Chemistry, and Professor Susan Gathercole, of the Deparetment of Psychology respectively in Ceremony Five, 3pm on 15 July.
  • Professor Dame Janet Nelson will be presented for her honorary degree by Dr Cathy Cubitt, of the Department of History in Ceremony Six, 9.30am on 16 July.
  • Lord Navnit Dholakia  and Ken Loach will be presented for their honorary degrees by Baroness Harris of Richmond and Professor Duncan Petrie, of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, respectively in Ceremony Seven, 12 noon on 16 July.
  • Anthony Horowitz and Justice Albie Sachs will be presented for their honorary degrees by Professor Mike Cordner, of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, and Professor Paul Gready, of the Centre for Applied Human Rights, in Ceremony Eight, 3pm on 16 July.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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