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Durham University

Ceremonies Unit

Honorary Degrees

At certain Congregation ceremonies the University awards honorary degrees to candidates who have been nominated by University staff and approved by Senate. During the ceremony a speech (oration) of the life and work of the graduand is presented prior to conferring the award.

If you would like someone to be considered for an honorary award, view the nomination information.


The following honorary degrees will be awarded at Summer Congregation 2019

Mr Jon Boden, Doctor of Music on Tuesday 2 July at 2pm

One of the most successful UK folk musicians of his generation, as a student, Durham alumnus Jon Boden was active on the North East folk music scene while studying for a degree in Medieval Studies. He went on to form the 11-piece band ‘Bellowhead’ with fellow musician, John Spiers in 2004. In addition to his ten studio albums with Spiers&Boden and Bellowhead, Boden has released three solo records and created the ‘A Folk Song a Day Project’ for which he recorded a different song every day for a year. The winner of 11 BBC Radio Folk Awards, some herald Boden with reinventing big band folk, bringing a traditional genre to a mainstream audience.

Dr Elspeth Garman, Doctor of Science on Wednesday 3 July at 2pm

An expert whose work transformed the field of Structural Biology, Elspeth Garman is currently Professor of Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University. A Durham Physics alumna, she has acted as a Visiting Professor to the University’s Chemistry Department for the last 12 years. With over 150 published papers (and an extra 25 as book chapters), she has received numerous prestigious awards, including the American Crystallographic Association’s Fankuchen Medal and the British Biophysical Society’s inaugural Sosei Heptares Prize. Her research has informed the molecular basis for common drugs such as Tamiflu®. Outside of the lab, she teaches widely at national and international workshops, inspiring the next generation of crystallographers.

Mr Robert Gillespie, Doctor of Civil Law on Thursday 4 July at 11am

Durham alumnus Robert Gillespie is a former Chair of Durham University’s Council – the institution’s governing body, with ultimate responsibility for its affairs. He is Chair of the Boat Race Company Limited, which manages the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Robert was also Chair of the Board of Somerset House Trust from 2006-2015 and a member of NSPCC’s Stop Organised Abuse Board from 2003 to 2012, and was a Vice-President of Save the Children from 2004 to 2009. After graduating in 1977 from Grey College with a BA in economics he followed a career in corporate finance in London and New York and was Director General of The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers from 2010 to 2013. He has served on the Board of RBS Group plc since 2014.

Dr Michelle Simmons, Doctor of Science on Friday 5 July at 9am

It was here, at Durham University, where Professor Michelle Simmons began her career, designing and building solar cells. Fast forward to today and her research in atomic electronics has set the pace in the international race to build a ‘quantum computer’ – a new type of computer that exploits quantum physics to provide exponentially faster processing times. An Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, Professor Simmons’s work in quantum physics saw her named ‘2018 Australian of the Year’. She is currently a Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney where she strongly encourages women to pursue scientific careers.

Lord Anthony Hughes, Doctor of Civil Law on Friday 5 July at 2pm

Recreational bell-ringer and veteran oarsman, Lord (Anthony) Hughes graduated from Van Mildert College in 1969 and was called to the Bar a year later. A former lecturer at Queen Mary College, London and Durham , in 1990 Anthony became a Queen's Counsel (QC), thus joining a limited number of barristers considered to have outstanding ability suitable for instruction in very serious or complex cases. Hugely experienced in both family and criminal law, he was knighted in 1997 on appointment as a High Court Judge. Later he served in the Court of Appeal and in 2013 was appointed to the Supreme Court.