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Honorary graduates for 2019 announced

Posted on 15 July 2019

The University of York has announced that 15 leading figures will receive honorary degrees this week during graduation ceremonies at Central Hall.

The University will honour 15 leading figures

Game of Thrones star, Mark Addy, photojournalist, Lynsey Addario; author and poet, Nnimmo Bassey; video game designer, Charles Cecil; paediatrician, Professor Diana Gibb; historian, Professor Catherine Hall; and biologist and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Henderson, will be honoured during the four-day celebrations. 

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to engineer and entrepreneur, Professor Irwin Jacobs; Professor of linguistics at Stanford University, Dr Ronald Kaplan; survival expert and TV presenter, Ray Mears; children’s author, Sir Michael Morpurgo; Professor of Physics at Michigan State University, Witold Nazarewicz; CEO of Smith & Nephew, Sir Christopher O’Donnell; economist, Professor Dani Rodrik; and President of Xiamen University, China, Professor Rong Zhang. 

Mark Addy

Mark Addy, English actor and voice artist, played King Robert Baratheon in the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones, and has had many other notable roles in major films, such as Friar Tuck in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, as well as in the theatre in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing

Mark was born in York and began his acting career on stage, performing at the York Theatre Royal and Hull Truck Theatre.  He made his film debut in 1997 as Dave Horsefall in The Full Monty, earning a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 

American photojournalist, Lynsey Addario’s work focuses on conflict and human rights issues, especially the role of women in traditional societies.  She has been commissioned by some of the world's most prestigious titles, including The New York Times, National Geographic and Time Magazine. 

Lynsey has covered almost every major conflict and humanitarian crises of her generation, including conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, Republic of the Congo, and Haiti, and in 2015 the American Photo Magazine named Ms Addario one of the five most influential photographers of the past 25 years. 

Lynsey Addario

Nnimmo Bassey is an acclaimed author, poet and one of Africa’s leading campaigners for the environment and human rights. He co-founded Environmental Rights Action, a Nigerian advocacy NGO, to advocate, educate and organize environmental human rights issues in the country. 

Nnimmo served as chair of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental network. He is the director of the ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation.

As co-founder of Revolution Software, Charles Cecil, established Europe's leading adventure game developer with titles, which were critically and commercially successful. Develop, a gaming magazine, ranked Revolution Software among the top 50 most successful development studios in the world. 

Charles also co-founded Yorkshire games network, Game Republic, in 2003 and received an MBE in 2011 for services to the computer games industry. 

Catherine Hall

Professor of Epidemiology at University College London. Diana Gibb, has set up and coordinated a network of clinical trials and cohorts across Europe, Thailand and South America addressing questions in paediatric HIV infection. 

Her focus expanded to Africa, and more recently to India, where she runs large scale trials, addressing strategy questions in adult and paediatric HIV infection, as well as in tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis C and antimicrobial resistance in children. 

Professor Catherine Hall is a British historian known for her work on gender, class, race and empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Professor Hall’s writing as a feminist historian was rooted in her involvement in the women's liberation movement from its beginnings in the late 1960s.   

She led the 'Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ project and is now the Emerita Chair of the new Centre for the Study of British Slave-ownership. 

Nobel Prize winner

Richard Henderson is a molecular biologist and biophysicist at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 for the development of cryo-electron microscopy in investigating biomolecules in solution, the structure of which is fundamental to the understanding the processes of life.  

Richard founded the Medical Research Council start-up company, Heptares Therapeutics Ltd (HTL) to help develop new drugs targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) linked to a wide range of human diseases. 

Professor Irwin Jacobs is an engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He co-founded, chaired, and led as CEO two successful companies, Linkabit and Qualcomm.  Qualcomm is famous for CDMA, basic to all 3G mobile phones, and leadership in LTE for 4G mobile phones. 

He was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton and he and his wife, Joan, have contributed several hundred million dollars to K-12 and higher education, focusing on fellowships and scholarships in STEM. 

Ray Mears

Innovator in the field of linguistics, Dr Ronald Kaplan, has served as Vice President at Amazon and Chief Scientist at Amazon Search. He co-developed the linguistic grammatical framework known as Lexical-Functional Grammar, which remains one of the main paradigms for grammatical research. 

He also co-developed the mathematical, linguistic, and computational concepts that underlie the use of finite-state phonological and morphological descriptions. 

Ray Mears is a survival instructor and TV presenter. He is most recognised as an authority on the subject of Bushcraft and Survival and several popular television series, including World of Survival, Real Heroes, and Wild Britain.  

He established Britain’s first School of Wilderness Bushcraft, which aimed to provide others with the opportunity to step beyond survival training and master the skills of traditional wilderness travel. He not only teaches the public but trains military personnel.

Michael Morpurgo

Author, Sir Michael Morpurgo, began writing stories in the early 1970s, in response to the children in his class at the primary school where he taught in Kent. He has written over 130 books, including The Butterfly Lion; Why the Whales Came; The Mozart Question; and War Horse.  

War Horse was adapted for a successful stage production by the National Theatre and for a film directed by Steven Spielberg. 

Professor Witold Nazarewicz is a John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Physics and a Chief Scientist at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University. 

As one of the most cited physicists in the world, his research has shaped the understanding of atomic-nuclei and nuclear theory. His long-standing collaborations with the University of York’s Department of Physics has focused on the description of nuclear properties, including nuclear fission: one of the most challenging research areas in physics. 


Former University of York Chair of Council and Chief Executive of Smith & Nephew, Sir Christopher O’Donnell, was responsible for the streamlining of the company, which focused on innovative products to help patients with knee, hip, and hard-to-heal wounds. 

Sir Christopher was the University of York’s Chair of Council from 2008 to 2017 supporting two Vice-Chancellors and their executive teams during the major expansion of the University. 

Economist, Dani Rodrik, is Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His research covers globalisation, economic growth and development, and political economy. 

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the inaugural Albert O. Hirschman Prize of the Social Science Research Council. He is currently president-elect of the International Economic Association. 

Global leadership

President of Xiamen University in China, Professor Rong Zhang, is an internationally leading electrical engineer and has published around 400 papers in the fields of semiconductor materials, spintronics and nano-electronics. 

He has worked to promote and strengthen cooperation between world-leading universities, institutes and multinational companies, and is the co-director of the York-Nanjing Joint Center in Spintronics. 

They will receive their honorary degrees during graduation ceremonies at the University’s Central Hall from Wednesday, 17 July to Saturday 20 July 2019.

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