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Durham University to honour two exceptional Sri Lankans and their post-tsunami work

(13 February 2007)

Ceremony

Durham University is this week celebrating two exceptional people who have played a pivotal role in the post-tsunami recovery efforts in Sri Lanka. It is awarding honorary degrees to the vice-chancellor of one of the country’s leading universities and the executive director of one of the largest non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka.

At a ceremony taking place at the University of Ruhuna in Southern Sri Lanka on Friday 16 February, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, will confer honorary doctorates in civil law (DCL) on Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of the Saravodaya Shramadana Movement, for his unfailing dedication to humanitarian causes and peace initiatives and Professor Ranjith Senaratne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, for his academic distinction, effective management and visionary development of an international strategy for his institution. The university is also conferring the honorary degrees in recognition of the individuals’ roles in helping to make ‘Project Sri Lanka’, which brings together students and staff of Durham university with community and regional partners in the North East of England in activities to assist with the reconstruction and regeneration of tsunami-devastated communities in Southern Sri Lanka, an internationally recognised success as an all-inclusive humanitarian, academic and development project. Durham University’s Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper, Director of Project Sri Lanka explained why she nominated the two graduands: “Dr Ariyaratne is a man of international acclaim and distinction in the medical, development and peace fields. He has worked with us since the establishment of Project Sri Lanka and has been unstinting in his personal support for the project. “Professor Ranjith Senaratne and the University of Ruhuna have been pivotal in setting up the academic exchanges between our two universities and visits of Durham students to Sri Lanka. He has also supported Durham in securing further funding to help develop exchange programmes which aim to stimulate academic partnership with real practical benefits for local communities in Sri Lanka.” Over 500 guests have been invited to the ceremony including the vice-chancellors of every Sri Lankan university, government ministers, members of the clergy, parents of Sri Lankan students studying at Durham University and Durham graduates. At the ceremony Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper will present the two honorary graduands followed by an address by Sir Kenneth Calman. There will also be a cultural event following the ceremony. The event will conclude with the national anthem of Sri Lanka. Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, commented: “Conferring these honorary degrees is a wonderful opportunity to cement our university’s fruitful relationships with these two outstanding individuals and the organisations that they represent. It reinforces the great work that is being done to create an internationally transferable model for the internationalisation of universities.” In the days following the honorary degree ceremony the Durham University group will attend the opening of Moraketiara School, which has been reconstructed with help from the Alnwick Rotary Club followed by a visit to the newly constructed DUCK school, named after the Durham Charity Kommitee (DUCK), which raised funds for the school’s construction. Project Sri Lanka is a British Council and HEFCE supported all-inclusive project led by Durham University. It brings together students and staff of the university with community and regional partners in the North East of England in activities to assist with the reconstruction and regeneration of tsunami-devastated communities in Southern Sri Lanka. Grounded in humanitarian objectives, the project has students at the heart of it and is underpinned by academic research and teaching in a wide range of disciplines which have relevance to understanding natural disasters and dealing with the effects of human tragedy. For more information on Project Sri Lanka please see: http://www.dur.ac.uk/project.srilanka

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