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Durham University News


Former BBC presenter to receive honorary degree

(24 June 2009)

A former ‘Tomorrow’s World’ presenter and Durham graduate, is one of six eminent figures to be awarded an honorary degree next week (30 June).

Judith Hann, who presented the BBC’s science programme for 20 years, graduated from Durham in 1964 with an honours degree in Zoology. Editor of the student newspaper Palatinate during her time at University, Judith went on to train as a journalist with the Northern Echo where she started a regular science column.

Her success in communicating science has made her one of the UK’s leading science writers and broadcasters. As well as presenting ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and ‘Watchdog Healthcheck’ on the BBC, Judith has written and presented a number of radio programmes including BBC Radio Four’s ‘Two’s a Crowd’ about the science of personality, and a BBC 2 series on the science of ageing.

Alongside her broadcasting success with the BBC, Judith has a prolific writing career, selling over a million copies of her latest book ‘How science works’ translated into over 20 languages.

Recognised nationally and internationally, Judith has chaired conferences for the European Union and the government, and was a member of a government-appointed body offering policy advice on issues such as GM crops and animal cloning.

Her remarkable achievements in science and broadcasting are recognised this week as she receives the honorary title of Doctor of Civil Law.

She receives the accolade alongside other Durham alumni, Reverend Ronald Lancaster, consultant to the Royal Household on pyrotechnics and speaker for the UK Fireworks industry; Mr Richard Monk OBE QPM BA, the current United Nations Commissioner of Police for Kosovo; and widely–acclaimed novelist, Lady Mary Stewart.

Also receiving awards are individuals with longstanding links to Durham University; Paul Ormerod, one of the founding directors of the scientific business consultancy service, Volterra, and Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, former President of the Evangelical Alliance (1987 – 92) and of the CofE Evangelical Council & Anglican Evangelical Assembly (1990-93).

The degree ceremonies, held in Durham Cathedral, run from 30 June to 3 July. Each honorary degree, to be conferred by Chancellor Bill Bryson, will be awarded as part of a student graduation ceremony.

Chancellor Bill Bryson, who authored his own award-winning science book, ‘A short history of nearly everything’, said: “It’s a real joy for me to confer honorary degrees on such an impressive group of people.

“Each of these individuals is truly inspirational – their extraordinary achievements demonstrating just how wonderfully dedicated and passionate they are about their work.”

Judith Hann said: “I spent some of the happiest years of my life in the North-East and met some of my very best friends at University. Durham has always been the special place for me – the birthplace of my first son, Jake, and the home of my father and his family.

“Durham was a beautiful spot to study and Durham Cathedral is still my favourite building in the world! By editing the University newspaper, Palatinate, I was introduced to the world of journalism - and science journalism has been the perfect career for me, writing and broadcasting.”

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We are exceptionally pleased to be able to recognise and honour each of these remarkable individuals who have such strong links to Durham University.

“The achievements of each have made a difference nationally and internationally, reflecting Durham University’s ethos of diversity and excellence.”

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