Biddy Baxter and Jeremy Vine awarded honorary degrees by Durham University
(27 June 2012)
Two former Durham University students who went on to become prominent figures in the BBC have been presented with honorary degrees to mark their outstanding achievements.
Biddy Baxter, the legendary former editor of children’s television programme Blue Peter, and Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine were honoured at a ceremony in Durham Cathedral.
Biddy, a Social Studies graduate, who attended St Mary’s College between 1952 and 1955, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters.
Jeremy, an English Language graduate, who attended Hatfield College between 1983 and 1986, received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law.
Biddy joined the BBC in 1955 and, together with Edward Barnes and Rosemary Gill, helped turn Blue Peter into a national institution with far-reaching national and worldwide influence.
During her time on the programme, The Blue Peter Appeals encouraged children to support good causes by collecting scrap materials rather than cash so that poorer viewers could take part.
She also introduced the first Blue Peter dog, Petra, so that children from homes where animals were forbidden could benefit from having a substitute pet.
Biddy said she was “overjoyed” to be receiving her honorary degree.
She added: “I was lucky enough to have had three blissful years at Durham and have so many happy memories.
“All my closest friendships were made when I was an undergraduate at St Mary’s College.
“Those of us whose boyfriends were at John’s or Chad’s would travel with them on Sundays to the outlying villages to hear them preach.
“For someone from the affluent Midlands like me, it was a revelation to see the impoverished conditions that some people lived in at the time. No tarmac away from the main road to the north – just unbelievably squalid muddy tracks, and living conditions that were primitive.
“But inside these small homes there were always sensational high teas, platefuls of every imaginable cake under the sun, all home-made, of course.
“The hospitality was unbelievably generous and as rationing was still in operation, hugely appreciated by us.
“For three memorable years Durham was my life. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to live in North East England. My affection for Durham remains undimmed.”
Jeremy, a former editor of Durham’s student newspaper Palatinate, is the presenter of the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2.
After graduating he became a BBC news trainee, later joining Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today as a reporter.
He was the BBC’s political correspondent and Africa correspondent before joining Newsnight in 1999 as one of three permanent presenters.
He has since presented Panorama and Points of View on BBC1 and the quiz show Eggheads on BBC 2.
Jeremy has won three Sony Gold Awards for his work since taking over the lunchtime slot on BBC Radio 2 from Jimmy Young.
Jeremy said: "I don't think I've ever received a higher honour than this.
“My three years at Durham were some of the happiest of my whole life, not just because I discovered The Smiths when I was there, but also because of the quality of friends I made and the standard of teaching. How lucky was I to be in a place of such beauty and intelligence.
“I'd like to thank all the reckless souls at the University who thought I merited such an honour.
"Without the confidence Durham gave me I wouldn't have been able to use a telephone, let alone have a radio show."
Biddy and Jeremy were presented with their honorary degrees during Durham University’s week-long Summer Congregation ceremonies which will see thousands of students graduating in subjects across the sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities.
For a list of this summer’s honorary degree recipients please see: www.durham.ac.uk/ceremonies/congregation/honorary/