By Alex Leggatt
Durham University will award five honorary degrees at the Summer Congregation 2019 next week between Tuesday 2 July and Friday 5 July.
Among those receiving degrees are the 2018 ‘Australian of the Year,’ a former Supreme Court Judge and an influential folk musician.
The degrees will be awarded to Professor Michelle Simmons, Professor Elspeth Garman, Lord Anthony Hughes, Jon Boden and Robert Gillespie in recognition of their “inspiring achievements.”
Professor Michelle Simmons began her career at Durham University designing and building solar cells, and will be made an Honorary Doctor of Science.
Her ground-breaking research in atomic electronics has contributed to the race to build the first ‘quantum computer.’ She was named ‘Australian of the Year’ in 2018, and advocates for young girls to pursue careers in science.
Professor Simmons said in a statement: “I had such a wonderful time at Durham. My passion for creating things that never existed before originated here.
“I am incredibly proud to be an alumna of Durham University.”
Professor Michelle Simmons
“My degrees gave me the skills to become the master of my own destiny and the down-to-earth environment allowed me to find an excellent balance between hard work, fitness and friendship. I am incredibly proud to be an alumna of Durham University.”
Professor Elspeth Garman, who initially studied Physics at Durham before becoming a Professor of Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University, will also become an Honorary Doctor of Science.
Professor Garman’s work in structural biology has received international acclaim and several awards
Her work in structural biology, which includes research into the molecular basis of common drugs such as Tamiflu®, has received international acclaim and several awards.
In a statement, Professor Garman said: “I am thrilled and humbled to be awarded this honour by Durham University where I studied Physics, learned to row and made life-long friends, laying the foundations for my life in science and in boats!
“Receiving it in the magnificent Cathedral is a special joy as I sang there with the University Choral Society.”
Lord Anthony Hughes graduated from Van Mildert College in 1969, and went on to become the Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1990, and was knighted in 1997 after being appointed as a High Court Judge.
He was later appointed to the Supreme Court in 2013 and will be made a Doctor of Civil Law. Lord Hughes told the University: “My three years as a student at Van Mildert College in the 1960s were very special.
“I have not been able to return often enough until the last few years when I have thoroughly enjoyed regular informal evenings with the lawyers at the College.
“My three years as a student at Van Mildert College in the 1960s were very special”
Lord Anthony Hughes
“Coming back to Durham always feels like coming home. So I am enormously honoured to be allowed a second degree, and without the examinations which the first needed.”
Jon Boden, co-founder of acclaimed 11-piece folk band ‘Bellowhead,’ read Medieval Studies at Durham whilst honing his musical skills in the North East folk scene.
He has become one of the most successful UK folk musicians of his generation, winning 11 BBC Radio Folk Awards, and is credited with bringing the genre of “big band folk” to a mainstream audience.
Mr Boden, who will be made a Doctor of Music, said: “I’m thrilled to be nominated for this great honour. The world of folk music is generally less integrated with the university sector than jazz or classical music, so it feels really significant to be recognised in this way.
Joe Boden has become one of the most successful UK folk musicians of his generation
“My time at Durham was incredibly musically formative so I am particularly looking forward to coming back to the City for the ceremony.”
The final person to be awarded an honorary degree will be Robert Gillespie, who will be made a Doctor of Civil Law.
Having graduated from Grey College in 1977 with a BA in Economics, Mr Gillespie served as Director General on The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers and has been a member of the Board of RBS Group plc since 2014.
He is also the current Chair of the Boat Race Company Limited, which organises the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
Robert Gillespie said in a statement: “I am profoundly grateful to have had this great honour bestowed upon me.
“The education I received, the privileged experience of living in this amazing City and the life-long friends I made as a student, have all framed the rest of my life for the better. It is therefore an incredibly special day to share with my family.”
Professor Stuart Corbridge, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “This has been a very successful year for Durham University and it is an honour to join with our graduates, their relatives and friends in celebrating so many inspiring achievements at our Summer Congregation ceremonies.
“It is an exciting moment for our graduates as they embark upon the next chapter of their lives. We know that Durham graduates go on to achieve outstanding things all around the world, while always taking Durham with them and being ambassadors for our University, City and region.
“Our honorary graduates this summer come from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds and have all achieved great things. They are an inspiration for our students and our University community as a whole.”
The Summer Congregation will take place in Durham Cathedral, and will feature 16 graduation ceremonies, in which 4,600 students from over 85 countries will graduate from the University.
Photographs: Durham University.