University of Leicester eBulletin

Roll of Honour: University of Leicester Announces Honorary Degrees for Distinguished Personalities

June 2003

Thirteen celebrated people are to be awarded honorary degrees by the University of Leicester at degree ceremonies between July 9-11 in front of thousands of students and their families.

The honorary graduands come from across the UK and the USA, and from the worlds of theatre, broadcasting, journalism, music, science, medicine and education. They include two of the University’s most distinguished professors.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Burgess said: "We are delighted to honour this group of people whose achievements have contributed so much to so many aspects of public life.  They have all been distinguished in their respective areas of expertise and in many cases have established close links with the University and the region. They are an inspiration to our students."

Recipients of the University of Leicester 2003 honorary degrees are as follows:

Wednesday, July 9:


Mr Anthony Howard, CBE, (DLitt): Columnist and former Obituaries Editor at The Times.

Mr Peter Preston (DLitt): The Guardian Foundation, Columnist and Editorial Director of the Guardian Media Group.  A former Loughborough Grammar School pupil.


Ms Patricia Hodge (DLitt): Stage, television and film actress.

Ms Siobhan Davies, CBE, (DLitt): Choreographer and founder of the Siobhan Davies Dance Company.  

[Photo: Siobhan Davies]
Siobhan Davies, CBE
[Photo: Laurie Lewis, 2000]

Thursday, July 10:


Professor Sir Martin Harris, CBE, (DLitt): Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester, who began his academic career at the University of Leicester.

Professor John Matthews (DLitt): Professor of Roman History, Yale University, USA. Former student at  Wyggeston Boys’ Grammar School.


Dame Gillian Weir (DMus): Internationally acclaimed concert organist.

The Hon. Lady Brooks (LLD): Active in charitable work in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Friday, July 11:


Dr June Scobee Rodgers (DSc): Founding Chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

Dr Adam Hart-Davis (DSc): Writer and broadcaster in science and history.  


Professor Sir Paul Nurse, FRS,  (DSc): Director of Cancer UK and Nobel Laureate.

[Photo: Professor Sir Paul Nurse, FRS]
Professor Sir Paul Nurse, FRS

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, FRS, (DSc):  Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Leicester, where he discovered genetic fingerprinting.

Professor Sir Peter Bell, FRCS, MD, (DSc) : Foundation Professor of Surgery, University of Leicester.

About the honorands:

Professor Sir Peter Bell, MD, FRCS  (Doctor of Science)


Sir Peter Bell, who was knighted in 2002 for services to Surgery, has been Professor of Surgery at the University of Leicester since 1973. His first post as Lecturer in Surgery was at the University of Glasgow. After a year as Travelling Fellow at the University of Colorado in 1967, he returned to Glasgow prior to his move to Leicester. He is currently Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, a member of Cases Committee, Medical Defence Union, and Treasurer of the European Surgical Society.   Previous posts included former President of the European Society for Vascular Surgery, Chairman of the Society of Academic Surgeons, President of the Vascular Surgical Society for Great Britain and Ireland and President of Leicester Medical Society. Among other societies of which he is a member are the International Transplantation Society, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the British Society of Immunology and Transplantation, the British Transplantation Society, the Society of Academic Surgeons, the European Surgical Association and the Academy of Medical Sciences.   His current research interests, on which he has published widely, are in the field of basic and clinical vascular surgery and transplantation. He persuaded the late Peter Kimberlin, then Lord Mayor, to adopt vascular surgery as his appeal for that year, raising nearly £1/2 million for the Department of Surgery.


The Honourable Lady Brooks (Doctor of Laws)


Ann Brooks has been a key figure in public life in Leicester and Leicestershire, using her position to engage in charitable work. One of the wide range of organisations for whom she has raised money is the University of Leicester Richard Attenborough Centre, of which she is a member of the Appeal Committee. It is estimated that in the mid 1990s Ann Brooks was instrumental in raising £100,000 for this Centre through a variety of events she personally organised. The wife of the former Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Ann Brooks is the daughter of the 4th Lord Cottesloe, after whom the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre in London is named. She is owner and trustee of Wistow Estate, which she runs with her husband, and is a Lay Canon of Leicester Cathedral, a member of the Cathedral Millennium Appeal Committee, and member of Leicester Cathedral Council.   She is also Chairman of Trustees of Sir Andrew Martin Trust for Young People; Governor of Leicester Grammar School; Vice-Chairman of the Trustees of Launde Abbey, member of the Diocesan Synod and Board of Finance, and Diocesan Board of Patronage; Trustee of the Player Trust and of the Leicester and Leicestershire Historic Churches Trust;  Chairman of the Retired Clergy, Widows and Dependants’ Committee, President of CRUSE Bereavement Care (Leicester), Vice-President of Mablethorpe Children’s Holiday Home;   Honorary Secretary for Leicester and Leicestershire Royal United Kingdom Beneficent Association (RUKBA); and member of the Leicester Branch of the Royal Society of St George and of the Britain Australia Society. Her other interests include the arts, theatre, ballet, gardening, yoga, bridge and history.


Ms Siobhan Davies, CBE (Doctor of Letters)

Siobhan Davies became a leading dancer and choreographer for London Contemporary Dance Theatre, making her first piece, Relay, in 1972. During the 1970s she worked for both Richard Alston and Ian Spink as well as on projects such as The Seven Deadly Sins for English National Opera. In 1980 she formed Siobhan Davies and Dancers which later became Second Stride, with Ian Spink’s and Richard Alston’s dancers. From 1988 to 1993 she was Associate Choreographer for Rambert Dance Company. She founded Siobhan Davies Dance Company in 1988, on her return from a year in America on a Fulbright Arts Fellowship. Since 1988, she has made 20 works for the SDDC and in 1999 produced her first work for The Royal Ballet, as part of the opening celebrations for the newly refurbished Royal Opera House. Much of her work has been filmed for television, including White Man Sleeps, Wyoming and White Bird Featherless, The Art of Touch and 13 Different Keys. Siobhan Davies and SDDC have been recognised by numerous awards.  From 1995 to 1997, Siobhan Davies was Choreographer in Residence and Senior Research Fellow at the Roehampton Institute, London, and in 1996 she accepted an Honorary Fellowship at Trinity College of Music, London, in recognition of her creative work with music, both in commissioning new scores for dance and involving live musicians in performance. Siobhan Davies was named as one of six Creative Britons in 2000 and was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours 2002 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to dance.


Professor Sir Martin Harris, CBE (Doctor of Letters)


Sir Martin Harris, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, received the CBE in 1992 and was knighted in 2000. With the Principal and Vice-chancellor of UMIST he has been involved in the linking of the University of Manchester and UMIST to form a single University from 2004.  He began his academic career at the University of Leicester in 1967, where he lectured in French Linguistics.  At the University of Salford he became Professor of Romance Linguistics, Dean of Social Sciences and Arts and finally Pro Vice-Chancellor before moving to Essex University as Vice-Chancellor.  From 1997-99 he was Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. He has been Chairman of the NW Universities Association, a member of the International Committee for Historical Linguistics, the UGC, and the HEFCE Review of University Libraries, Chairman of the NI Sub-Committee of the UFC (formerly UGC), the National Curriculum Working Group for Modern Foreign Languages, HEFCE/CVCP Review of Postgraduate Education, the Clinical Standards Advisory Group, and the DfEE Careers Review. He has been on the governing board of numerous academic institutions and was Joint General Editor of the Longman Linguistics Library from 1982 – 96. He has published and edited books on syntax and the romance languages, contributing around 35 articles to journals and collections.


Dr Adam Hart-Davis (Doctor of Science)


Dr Adam Hart-Davis has been a familiar face on television as the enthusiastic presenter of the history series What The Stuarts [Tudors etc] Did For Us, and has been a freelance photographer, writer and broadcaster since 1994. He studied for an MA at Oxford, receiving a first in Chemistry, followed by a Doctorate in Organometallic Chemistry at York University. He spent three years in Canada and the UK on post-doctoral research and five years publishing science books for the Oxford University Press. In 1977 he joined Yorkshire Television, first as a researcher and later a producer.   Among his triumphs were Scientific Eye, one of the most popular school science series on television, a success he repeated with Mathematical Eye. He published books to go with the series. Television series he presented in the 1990s include Tomorrow’s World, Local Heroes, Hart-Davis on History, and in 2000 Secret City. He introduced the radio series Inventors Imperfect from 1999, as well as High Resolution, Elements of Surprise  and  Reinventing the Wheel. He has presented television programmes on Roman technology and more than 40 programmes on history. His publications include numerous books on science, mathematics and ghost stories, including Eurekaaargh! – failed inventions, The Local Heroes Book of British Ingenuity,  and  Amazing Maths Puzzles. His scientific photographs have appeared in many magazines, books and newspapers.


Part of his two series Local Heroes and Hart-Davis on History have involved Leicestershire stories, including the 18th-century cattle and sheep breeder Robert Bakewell and Edmund Cartwright – also 18th-century – who invented interlocking bricks and a mechanical loom.  He has also filmed the history of pork-pie making in Melton Mowbray and the story of Thomas Cook’s first trip to the Temperance Picnic in Loughborough.


Ms Patricia Hodge (Doctor of Letters)


Actress Patricia Hodge was born in Lincolnshire and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She made her debut in Edinburgh in 1971 with No One Was Saved. In the last few years on the London stage she has appeared in Separate Tables, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Heartbreak House. At the Royal National Theatre, she has played in Money, Summerfolk and Noises Off, receiving an Olivier Award in 2000 for her work. She has worked extensively in all aspects of the media, collecting five award nominations. Her television credits include Hotel du Lac, Rumpole of the Bailey, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and The Cloning of Joanna May. Her films include Sunset (with Bruce Willis), The Elephant Man and Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (with Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley)  Most recently on television she played Margaret Thatcher in The Falklands Play for the BBC.   Her latest film, Before You Go was released in June 2002. She is currently filming in Derbyshire a new drama series for Carlton TV.


Mr Anthony Howard, CBE (Doctor of Letters)


Anthony Howard, former columnist and Obituaries Editor at The Times, received the CBE in 1997. At Christ Church, Oxford, he was Chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club and President of the Oxford Union. He was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in 1956 and, following National Service, became briefly Political Correspondent for Reynolds News before moving to the Manchester Guardian. Following a Harkness Fellowship in the USA he became Political Correspondent with the New Statesman in 1961 and Whitehall Correspondent for The Sunday Times in 1965. He held various posts at the Observer and New Statesmen, until becoming Editor of the New Statesman in 1972 and the Listener in 1979. He returned to the Observer to become Deputy Editor in 1981. Moving into television, he worked for Channel Four, Sky News TV and BBC TV News and Current Affairs. For most of the 1990s he was obituaries editor of The Times before retiring in 1999 to the freelance life. He now writes a weekly column for The Times as well as regularly reviewing books in The Sunday Times. His publications include contributing to The Baldwin Age (1960), Age of Austerity (1963) and The Making of the Prime Minister (with Richard West) (1965). He edited the Crossman Diaries in 1979, wrote Rab: the life of R A Butler in 1987, Crossman: the pursuit of power in 1990 and contributed to Secrets of the Press in 1999.  


Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, FRS (Doctor of Science)


Sir Alec Jeffreys is Professor of Genetics and Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Leicester, where he discovered genetic fingerprinting in 1984. He was knighted in 1994. A graduate of Merton College, Oxford, he was European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam, where with Dr Richard Flavell he was one of the first to discover split genes. He came to the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in 1977, where he was one of the first to discover inherited variation in human DNA. He became a member of EMBO in 1983 and of the Human Genome Organisation n 1989. He was Editor of the Journal of Molecular Evolution in 1985 and Founder of FMedSci in 1998. In 1989 he became a Fellow of the Forensic Science Society of India, and in 1998 an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has published widely on molecular genetics and evolution. His current work concentrates on developing new approaches to analysing variation and mutation in human chromosomes.

Sir Alec's numerous honours include election to Fellowship of the Royal Society (1986), the Royal College of Pathologists (1991), the Royal College of Physicians (1993), the Linnean Society (1994), the Institute of Biology (1998) and the Academy of Medical Sciences (1998). In 1989, he received the Winner of the Press, Radio & TV award for  Midlander of the Year 1988, and was elected an Honorary Freeman of the City of Leicester in 1993. In 1994 he was awarded a Knighthood for services to science and technology.  He has received many awards including the Davy Medal (1987), the Gold Medal for Zoology (1994), the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Memorial Medal (1996), the Albert Einstein World of Science Award (1996), the Australia Prize (1998), the Sir George Stokes Medal (2000), the Eduard Buchner Prize from the Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie (German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2001) and in 2002 was awarded a National Historic Chemical Landmark plaque, commemorating the development of DNA fingerprinting by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professor John Matthews, DPhil, FRHistS, FSA, FBA (Doctor of Letters)


John Matthews, John M Schiff Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, is a former student of Wyggeston Boys’ Grammar School (now Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College), and a graduate of Queen’s College, Oxford. He became a Junior Research Fellow in Greek Culture at Balliol College in 1965, rising to the position of Professor of Middle and Later Roman History in 1992, a post that he held until 1996 when he went to Yale as Professor of Roman History. He also held Fellowships at Corpus Christi College (1969-76) and Queen’s College (1976-96).  In 1971 he won the Conington Prize. At Yale he has been Chair of the Department of Classics from 1998. He joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1980-81) and became British Academy Reader in Humanities (1988-90) and a Fellow of the National Humanities Center in North Carolina from 1995-96. Described as one of the leading scholars of the late antique world, he has a long list of distinguished publications to his name, most notably Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court, AD 364-425, Political Life and Culture in Late Roman Society, The Roman Empire  of Ammianus, The Goths in the Fourth Century (with Peter Heather), and Laying Down the Law: A Study of the Theodosian Code. Atlas of the Roman World (published 1982), co-authored with Tim Cornell, has been translated into German, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Polish and Czech.


Professor Matthews’ links with Leicester remain strong. He can remember the names of most of his teachers at Avenue Road Junior School, and all of those at Wyggeston School. He played cricket on Victoria Park and regularly attended symphony concerts at the De Montfort Hall. His sisters, both former county tennis champions, live in Blaby and Oadby and his parents in Knighton. He still enthusiastically follows the fortunes of Leicester City Football Club and thinks that David Gower and Gary Lineker (whose father he knew as a boy) are among the most perfect athletic artists who ever lived. Professor Matthews’ nephew is also a graduate of the University of Leicester.


Professor Sir Paul Nurse, PhD, FRS (Doctor of Science)

Paul Nurse became Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK in August 2002 following the merger of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund with The Cancer Research Campaign. From 1996 until February 2002, he was Director General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and before that served for three years as Director of Research (Laboratories). He also heads the Cell Cycle Laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, a research group which studies the genes that prompt cells to divide. This work has greatly enhanced our understanding of the nature of cancer cells, and how they grow. He is probably best known for his contribution to the discovery of the mechanism which controls cell division in most living organisms. In 1989 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, in 1995 a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and in 1999 an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Physicians. He has received numerous awards for his contribution to medical research. In 2001, Paul Nurse was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He is a member of the Council for Science and Technology which advises the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. He is also a member of the international Advisory Boards of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, ISREC in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Scientific Council of the Institut Curie in Paris. The author of many scientific papers, he has been on the editorial board of several journals including Cell.

In 1999 Paul Nurse received a Knighthood for services to cancer research and cell biology. 

Mr Peter Preston (Doctor of Letters)


Columnist and Editorial Director of the Guardian Media Group and Director of the Guardian Foundation, Loughborough-born Peter Preston was a student at Loughborough Grammar School and a Graduate of St John’s College, Oxford. After three years as editorial trainee on the Liverpool Daily Post, he joined the Guardian in 1963 as Reporter, then Education Correspondent, Diarist, Features Editor and Production Editor, becoming Editor in 1975 and Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian and Observer in 1995, a year before taking up his present post. He is a Member of the Scott Trust, former World Chairman of the International Press Institute and Chairman of the Association of British Press Editors. Until 1994 he served on the Press Complaints Commission.  Since 2000 he has served on the UNESCO Advisory Group on Press Freedom and been Governor of the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe. Peter Preston broadcasts extensively on radio. He was a member of the Leicester Magic Circle. He has written two novels: The 51st State (1998) and Bess (1999) and is the recipient of numerous newspaper honours and awards, including several awards for Newspaper of the Year.


Dr June Scobee Rodgers (Doctor of Science)


June Scobee Rodgers, Founding Chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, has been an active promoter of science and maths education in the United States throughout her professional life. Wife of American astronaut R Francis “Dick” Scobee, who perished in the 1986 explosion of the Challenger spacecraft, she is not only a prominent leader in education, but a long-time Anglophile as well. She has been a consultant to local, state and federal education agencies, holds a PhD from Texas A & M University and claims to have taught in every grade-level classroom from kindergarten to university. With other bereaved families of the Challenger astronauts, Dr Rodgers set up the Challenger Center, with its international network of educators, scientists and corporate and community leaders. In 1992 the US Department of Education recognised it as one of the country’s most innovative projects for teaching science and maths.   Leicester was the first place outside North America to have a Challenger Centre and Dr Rodgers worked closely with the University of Leicester to set this up as part of the UK’s National Space Centre, co-founded by the University. Dr Rodgers is a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and  recently served on the US President’s National Advisory Council on Education. Her work has won her a number of awards in the US.

Dame Gillian Weir, DBE (CBE) (Doctor of Music)

Organist Gillian Weir has performed across the world with leading orchestras and conductors and at some of the most prestigious festivals. Born in New Zealand, but long resident in England, she is known worldwide for her virtuosity, integrity, musicianship and charisma. She regularly adjudicates for leading international competitions and is a television broadcaster, teacher and writer. Her repertoire stretches from Renaissance to contemporary music. She has performed the complete organ works of Bach and of Olivier Messaien – of whom she is an acknowledged interpreter. Recent appearances included festivals in Australia, a tour of Japan, a concert at Lincoln Center, New York, opening the Bad Homburg Festival in Germany and serving as adjudicator at The Triennial Dallas International Organ Competition and the First International Organ Competition of the City of Paris.In 1999-2000 she made two tours of the United States, with recitals coast to coast. She was nominated by Classic CD magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Keyboard Players of the Century, as well as by The Sunday Times as one of the 1000 Music Makers of the Millennium. Her BBC television series, The King of Instruments drew weekly audiences of two millions viewers in the UK and was seen in many other countries.

Honorands’ Comments: 

“It is a tremendous honour to receive the prestigious honorary degree of Doctorate of Science from the University of Leicester that is so well known for its specialisation in the field of Space Science and Science Education. I am over the moon with excitement for this outstanding opportunity to visit Leicester and receive the award.”                        Dr June Scobee Rodgers

 “I am a little surprised as well as greatly honoured that I should be rewarded by an Honorary DLitt at the University of Leicester. Yet, for all the years spent in Oxford and now in the United States, I think of myself as a Leicester man.                          Professor John Matthews

“Leicester has always been very much a part of my life, which of course means the University of Leicester, too. I’m excited and flattered by this honour.”                           Peter Preston

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