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Durham University News



An A to Z of Honorary Graduates at Durham University

(13 March 2006)

Durham University is celebrating an A to Z of achievement - from anthropology to jazz - with a quartet of honorary doctorates at its 2006 summer ceremonies.

The University’s guests of honour are:
Doctors of Science:

  • Professor Geoffrey Harrison, widely regarded as the father of modern biological anthropology - the study of human evolution both in terms of individuals and populations.
  • Robert J. Sternberg, probably the world’s most prolific psychology author and a leading influence on the theory and practice of education and psychology

Doctor of Civil Law

  • Dr Luke Rittner, one of Britain’s most experienced administrators in the arts, currently Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Doctor of Music

  • Chris Barber OBE, jazz trombonist and bandleader, now in his sixth decade as a potent and influential presence in modern music.

The four men will receive their degrees from University Chancellor Bill Bryson at separate ceremonies in Durham Cathedral at the end of June, when more than 3,000 students will graduate.

Vice-Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman said: “We are delighted that they have accepted our invitation to join our family of honorary graduates. Through their work and influence they represent many strands of the diverse strengths and interests we have in the University. We look forward to celebrating the conferment of their degrees.”

Biographical summaries
DMus - Chris Barber

  • enduring influence on British Jazz & other contemporary music

Chris Barber tried to study maths while distracted by an insistent preoccupation with Jazz, and hit an immovable obstacle in the form of some Louis Armstrong records. Eventually he accepted his father's offer of support while changing to study music. Chris's father had played the violin (well enough to be leader of the student orchestra at Christ's Hospital) and became an economist, but Chris reversed the trend and bought a trombone. He enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music with his trombone and accepted their offer of a double bass on which to learn. After leading an amateur band from 1949, he finally formed his professional band in 1953. It became the somewhat unexpected founder of the mid-50s popular success of traditional jazz, spawning numerous offspring in the process (Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and others). By the late 50s, among Barber's most important activities was the introduction of American Blues and Gospel artistes to the UK, creating a little later the "British Blues Boom" of the early 60s and indeed is still rolling! Chris happily entered his sixth decade as a Bandleader with no discernible flagging of interest, enthusiasm, skill, nor, indeed, audience appreciation and took the opportunity to allow the band to grow to 11 members with great success. In 1991 he was awarded the OBE for his services to Music. As a trombone player Chris's work is enhanced by his rich sound and flowing solo style. It is, however, as a Bandleader and trend-creator that he has made his greatest contribution to the jazz scene both internationally and in the UK.

DSc – Professor Geoffrey Harrison

  • pioneer in the study of biological anthropology

In the early 1960s, Geoffrey Harrison was the leading figure among a small number of researchers who revolutionised the conceptual frameworks for research and teaching in biological anthropology. Older rigid approaches gave way to a recognition of the huge biological flexibility of individuals and populations. The changes he introduced at Oxford University have transformed the curriculum and methodologies of anthropology throughout colleges and universities in the UK and Europe, the United States and Australia, and have fed through to influence teaching and research across human biology and preclinical education generally. He was involved in the investigations following exposure of the ‘Piltdown Man’ hoax; he co-wrote the definitive textbook for generations of students; and his pioneering historical demographic studies of Otmoor in Oxfordshire, and Oxford City, transformed views on human population genetics. His long-standing concerns with identifying the components of human adaptation have recently been extended to examining the biosocial influences on lifestyle and well-being and he is currently involved in assessing levels of psycho-social stress in Australian Aboriginal populations. At Durham he has been a supportive external examiner, speaker and significant donor to the Library.

DCL - Dr Luke Rittner

  • champion for the Arts

Luke Rittner took up his appointment as Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Dance in 1999. He is one of Britain's most experienced arts administrators. His career has encompassed many roles, from running one of Britain's leading festivals (in Bath) and being Founder-Director of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts to his most successful leadership at the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1983 to 1990. Luke Rittner has served on arts boards, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Council. He is Chairman of the Executive Board of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA); former Chairman of The London Chorus; a Trustee of the Hanover Band; a Patron of the New London Orchestra. The University's association with the Royal Academy of Dance, which lasted for a decade, was through its validation of the Royal Academy of Dance programmes of study in Dance Education. The University's former Chancellor, Dame Margot Fonteyn, was also, until her death, President of the Royal Academy of Dance.

DSc - Robert J. Sternberg

  • international influence on the theory and practice of education and psychology

Robert Sternberg is believed to be the most published psychologist of all time and his work has widespread influence on standards of teaching and learning. He addressed an international conference in Durham 2005 and members of Professor Sternberg’s team are collaborating with Durham in a study of teachers’ practical intelligence. As a child, he performed poorly on IQ tests and, as he grew up, became interested in psychology. He constructed his own test and applied it to his classmates. For a time his academic career veered between psychology and mathematics but he eventually developed his ideas for componential analysis, and so determined his future as a psychologist. Professor Sternberg is Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Psychology and Director of the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies and Expertise) Center at Tufts University, Boston. He moved there in 2005 from Yale where he was IBM Professor of Psychology and Education. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and other leading bodies and a past-president of the American Psychological Association (APA).

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