University honorary degrees for 2017


Thirteen people will be presented with honorary degrees this year, recognising their achievements in a wide array of fields.

An honorary degree is regarded as one of higher education’s most prestigious awards and each year the University carefully elects notable recipients.

The recipients will be honoured alongside undergraduates at degree ceremonies starting from 11 July at the University’s Great Hall.

The recipients of honorary degrees this year are:

Dr Malcolm Brown, Doctor of Laws

A Leeds graduate, Malcolm Brown has coached Leeds-based triathletes to five Olympic medals and 89 multiple World, Commonwealth and European medals (including 37 golds).  He is the founder and current Performance Director of the Leeds Triathlon Centre, widely accepted as one of the leading training centres in the world, bringing together key stakeholders from within and outside the city (University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and British Triathlon).  In addition to generating world-class athletes, the Centre has also had a significant and positive economic impact on the city of Leeds, for example through the securing of the ITU World Series race. With a background in education, Dr Brown is a proponent of ensuring that his athletes continue to excel academically, and places a major emphasis on engaging with the community and local partners.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Professor Anne Chamberlain, Doctor of Science

Anne Chamberlain is a driving force for rehabilitation medicine in Leeds, the UK and the developed and developing world. In parallel to her clinical profile, she established the rehabilitation research programme at the University of Leeds, producing award-winning work on the treatment of many disabling conditions. She has revolutionised the environment for disabled people across the world, facilitating treatment to enable people to recover and alleviating disability in people with long-term conditions. She was the first female professor of rehabilitation medicine in the UK, the second appointed female professor in the University’s School of Medicine and was, for a period, the sole female clinical academic at the Leeds General Infirmary.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here

Grace Clough, Doctor of Laws

Leeds graduate Grace Clough started rowing just three years before she took gold at the Rio Paralympic Games as part of the mixed coxed fours team, with whom she also secured two world rowing championship gold medals. A shoulder injury at birth left her with a permanent disability which she thought would hamper her early sporting endeavours in basketball and football.  It was through a chance visit to a SportsFest Paralympic talent day in her native Sheffield that she took the move to become a professional athlete in 2014.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Barry Cryer, Doctor of Letters

Leeds-born Barry Cryer is one of Britain’s longest serving and best-loved comedy writers. Now in his eighties, he continues to perform regularly on the BBC Radio Four panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.  He enrolled on an English degree at the University but before completing his studies was spotted by an agent during a performance at City Varieties Music Hall and moved to London to pursue a career in comedy.  It was whilst working for The Frost Report alongside John Cleese that he got his big break. In a stellar career spanning six decades he has written for comedy greats including Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and The Two Ronnies, to name but a few.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Dr Karen Darke, Doctor of Laws

A Leeds graduate, Karen Darke won a silver medal in hand-cycling at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a gold at Rio in 2016. Dr Darke was left paralysed from the chest down after a fall when rock climbing but has since completed an array of remarkable physical achievements: she has hand-cycled across the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains, down the length of the Japan archipelago and across the Indian Himalayas; she has sea-kayaked along a 1,200-mile stretch of the Canada-Alaska coastline; she has made a record-breaking 600 km crossing of the Greenland ice-cap on a sit-ski, and, in 2007, she conquered the El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park, California. Dr Darke works as a learning and development specialist with organisations and schools throughout the world and gives regular talks and lectures on her experiences.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here

Richard Farnes, Doctor of Music

Named conductor of the Year in the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in 2017, Richard Farnes was Opera North’s Music Director for some 12 years.  During this time his impact on the company was immense and enhanced not only its reputation but also his own; he is now regarded as one of Europe’s outstanding Wagnerians. He is a world-class conductor and has been rightly lauded for his achievements, which famously include the conducting of six full, semi-staged performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in a single season – which has never previously been attempted by any opera company.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Professor John Hardy, Doctor of Science

John Hardy is a Leeds graduate and a world-leading researcher in Alzheimer’s disease, having identified, in 1991, the mutations now recognised as the first-known cause of the disease. His subsequent formulation of the “amyloid cascade” hypothesis has been fundamental to most therapeutic strategies used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Professor Hardy has led major contributions to our overall understanding of the genetics of a range of neurodegenerative conditions. He is the fifth most cited researcher in the world in Alzheimer’s research and has formed a reputation built on his ability not only to conduct truly original research, but also through recognising the full implications of his discoveries for human health.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Colin Low, (Baron Low of Dalston), Doctor of Laws

Colin Low was a lecturer in law and criminology in the School of Law from 1968 until 1984.  He has been a member of numerous national boards protecting the rights of disabled people, and was one of the founder members of the Disability Rights Commission.  He currently chairs the Low Commission on the future of advice and legal support on social welfare law.  He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2000 New Year's Honours for services to the RNIB and disabled people’s rights and, in 2014, he was awarded the Liberty Human Rights 'Campaign of the Year Award’ for leading the campaign to ensure that the Human Rights Act would apply to all residential care provided or arranged by local authorities.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Lady Nicola Mendelsohn, Doctor of Laws

A Leeds graduate, Nicola Mendelsohn is Facebook’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  She has specific responsibility for developing digital marketing solutions and strengthening relationships with the marketing and advertising communities. Lady Mendelsohn is the former president of advertising industry trade body the IPA – the first woman president in its 96-year history.  A staunch promoter of women’s rights, she chairs the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and the Women's Aid Development Board and is President of the Women in Advertising and Communications club. She has recently hosted a Women In Leadership event as part of the Making a World of Difference Campaign here at the University.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Helen Rappaport, Doctor of Letters

Helen Rappaport is a Leeds graduate and an extremely successful author of historical works, much of the high quality historical research for which has been carried out at the Leeds Russian Archive – from where she has also started translating all the Chekhov plays. Her work has attracted a devoted following of loyal readers as well as earned respect for her status as a historical expert.  She has made regular and repeat appearances on national radio including Woman’s Hour and Start the Week, and as an expert on historical documentaries on BBC and commercial channels.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Professor Martin Rees (Baron Rees of Ludlow), Doctor of Science

Martin Rees is a senior figure in UK science and has been the Astronomer Royal since 1995.  He has conducted influential theoretical work on subjects as diverse as black hole formation and extragalactic radio sources, and provided key evidence to contradict the Steady State theory of the evolution of the universe.  He is the author of more than 500 research papers and books intended for the lay public as well as his academic peers; in 2010 he delivered the Reith Lectures for the BBC, now published as From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons which tackled subjects as diverse of alien life, climate change, overpopulation, the possibility of lethal pandemics, the idea of science as "organised sceptism", and whether schoolchildren in Britain are given the best opportunities to take up and study the science underpinning their natural inquisitiveness.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.  

Dr Andrew Shovlin, Doctor of Science (Engineering)

Andrew Shovlin is a Leeds graduate and Chief Race Engineer for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, having previously worked very closely, as Senior Race Engineer, with Jensen Button and the Mercedes/Brawn team that took the World Drivers’ Championship in 2009. He competed in the Formula Student competition as an undergraduate before completing a PhD in vehicle dynamics and control, focusing on military vehicles.  He was offered a job as a vehicle dynamics specialist by BAR Honda before moving to trackside engineering and working his way up through the ranks at Mercedes.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here

Professor Paul Workman, Doctor of Science

A Leeds graduate, Paul Workman is the Chief Executive and President of The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and has been awarded the prestigious American Association of Cancer Research Team Science Award, amongst numerous other accolades.  Professor Workman’s illustrious career has been characterised by his ability to take pioneering drugs out of the laboratory and into commercial development for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide; under his stewardship the ICR has progressed six of its drugs into Phase I clinical trials, and has seen its prostate cancer drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

The full citation from the ceremony can be found here.