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Durham University

Durham University News


Anniversary accolades for major achievement

(8 June 2007)

Durham University is to award its highest accolade to five pivotal figures in education, science, music, the media and religion in celebration of its 175th anniversary.

BBC news presenter George Alagiah and educationalist Sir Mike Tomlinson CBE, who are both Durham University graduates, are among those to be honoured at a special honorary degree ceremony on 23 June.

The ceremony, to be held in Durham Cathedral, is a highlight of the anniversary events planned for 2007, which have been organised to reflect on the University’s illustrious history, celebrate the contribution of students, staff, and alumni and communicate a shared vision for the future with the wider community.

Mr Alagiah, Sir Mike Tomlinson and the Right Reverend Dr Tom Wright will also be giving public lectures.

Also receiving awards are eminent scientist Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell CBE, internationally acclaimed composer and conductor Dr James MacMillan CBE and the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Dr Tom Wright. The honorary degrees are to be conferred by Chancellor of Durham University, Bill Bryson.

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We are pleased and privileged to honour these individuals who are impressive not only in their exceptional achievements, but also in their inspirational dedication to their work.

“Those who are awarded honorary degrees at Durham do not just gain a title, but rather gain recognition that they have sought to, and indeed succeeded in, reaching their highest potential within their field.”

Further honorary degrees are to be awarded in the Summer Congregation ceremonies on 27 and 29 June. These include North East local Richard Adams, founder of Traidcraft; Alastair Fothergill, the much celebrated director; eminent engineer, Lord Broers; leading Judge Navanethem Pillay; and internationally-acclaimed anthropologist Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern.

Mini Biographies:

George Alagiah – BBC news presenter & leading foreign correspondent
One of the BBC’s most well respected and widely known news presenters, George Alagiah, a graduate of Durham University, is co-presenter of the BBC Six O’Clock News and presenter of World News Today on BBC World. In addition to his reporting career he has also authored award-winning books such as ‘A Passage to Africa’ and acted as patron of several organisations, including the Fairtrade Foundation. (Durham University recently gained Fairtrade status).

Recognised as one of the BBC’s leading foreign correspondents, he has reported on countless major issues threatening the world today, from the murder of street children in Brazil to the aftermath of the terror attacks on New York, and has interviewed prominent figures ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Yasser Arafat. He has been award-winning on several occasions including the award for Best International Report at the Royal Television Society (1993), not to mention Media Personality of the Year at the Ethnic Minority Awards as well as claiming a Bafta award (2000) with his colleagues for their coverage of the Kosovo conflict.

Sir Mike Tomlinson CBE – Former Chief Inspector of Schools; educator and educationalist
Durham University graduate, Sir Mike Tomlinson has been deemed the spearhead of educational reform in this generation. He has achieved the extraordinary during his career, including the re-establishment of the Kuwait educational system following the Gulf War and the solving of the crisis over A-level grades in 2002.

He served as Chief Inspector of Schools, responsible for Ofsted, following his long standing involvement in the inspectorate. Having placed Secondary reform back onto the agenda, Sir Tomlinson was then appointed Chairman of the Working Group for 14-19 Reform. His exceptional contribution to education earned him a Knighthood and a place on the Royal List of Honours 2004.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell CBE – Radio astronomer
Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, famed for discovering the first radio pulsars with her thesis advisor Antony Hewish, has been deemed a role model for women in science. She was the second woman in the Royal Astronomical Society’s 180-year history to be President when she was appointed in 2002 and has received several awards for her contributions to Astrophysics including the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society (1987) and the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1989).

Her main interests lie in the advancement of both astronomy and women in astronomy, as well as being heavily involved in the promotion of public understandings of physics and astronomy, serving several years as Chair of PPARC’s Public Understanding of Science and Technology Advisory Panel.

Dr James MacMillan CBE - Internationally acclaimed contemporary Scottish composer and conductor
The 1990 BBC Proms saw the advent of James McMillan’s status as an internationally recognised composer after the remarkable success of his ‘The Confession of Isobel Gowdie’.

Now heralded as one of today’s most successful living composers, he was Affiliate Composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1990 until 2005 and was Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today series between 1992 and 2002. His extensive collection of highly praised works includes Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, the percussion concerto which has received more than 300 performances and Quickening, a major choral-orchestral work.

As much a conductor as a composer, he has been Composer/Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic since September 2000 and has directed many of his own works on recordings for Chandos, BIS and BMG.

Right Reverend Dr Tom Wright – Bishop of Durham and highly acclaimed theologian
Bishop of Durham for four years and previously Canon of Westminster, the Right Reverend Dr Tom Wright is well-known as one of today’s most prominent New Testament scholars. With over 40 books published at both scholarly and popular levels, as well as giving frequent broadcasts on radio and TV, his influential writings and ministry have earned him widespread respect and recognition.

Northumberland born Dr Tom Wright is heavily involved in scholarly societies, being a member of the Society for New Testament Studies, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, as well as the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.