University honours stars of stage, screen…and stars

Celebrating our annual summer Graduation Ceremonies

Published on 28 June 2017

Our University will give honorary awards to eight distinguished figures from July 10 to 14 at our annual summer Graduation Ceremonies. They will be joined by almost 3,000 graduates receiving awards from our Chancellor Steve Cram CBE, ITV Evening News presenter Alastair Stewart, and Chairman of the Leighton Group Paul Callaghan CBE.

Close to 12,000 people are expected to attend the Academic Awards at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, which are estimated to bring £1million annually to the region.

The acting world will be well represented at the awards with Vera star (and adopted North Easterner) Brenda Blethyn. Joining her is perhaps one of the most well-known voices in the nation, Felicity Finch, who was born in Eaglescliffe and has played Ruth Archer on the popular BBC Radio 4 show for 30 years.

The region’s business, public services and charity champions are also fielding a strong team at the home of Sunderland football club. Paul Callaghan, Chairman of the Leighton Group, will receive an honorary award, alongside Ken Bremner, CEO, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust; Heidi Mottram, CEO of Northumbrian Water, and Lesley Spuhler, Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation of Light.

Gary Fildes, Director of the Kielder Observatory, will also be recognised for his contribution to the region and to science, a subject also well represented by Dr Andrew Singleton. Dr Singleton, who graduated from Sunderland in 1995, is Chief of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics in the National Institute of Ageing, USA.

A full list of all honoraries and their awards follows below.

University Vice-Chancellor Shirley Atkinson commented: "We are proud to pay tribute to our honoraries at this year’s Graduation Ceremonies. They have all made a significant impact in their chosen careers and will be a tremendous inspiration to our graduates who are celebrating their academic success before beginning or continuing their own career.

“This year is a very special one for Sunderland, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Sunderland in 1992, following on from 100 years of successful delivery of higher education in the city.

“We are very proud to continue our life-changing work with the class of 2017, who, alongside all of our graduates, make a huge difference to our region and to wider society, both nationally and internationally, they are our tomorrow makers.”

University of Sunderland graduates have been identified as among the most employable in the UK in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the results of which were recently announced. Sunderland won Silver in the TEF with excellent outcomes for graduates thanks to the University’s strong relationships with employers, enabling the Class of 2017 to begin their careers with relevant work-ready knowledge and skills.

University of Sunderland Honorary Awards 2017

Brenda Blethyn OBE – Friday, 14 July

BAFTA winning, Oscar-nominated actress, known for Secrets & Lies, Atonement, Little Voice and North East-based drama, Vera.

Honorary Doctorate of Arts, in recognition of her outstanding acting career in film, television and the theatre.

Ken Bremner – Tuesday, 11 July

CEO, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

Honorary Fellowship, in recognition of over 35 years of service to the NHS in the North East.

Paul Callaghan CBE, DL, FRSA – Friday, 14 July

Chairman, The Leighton Group.

Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration, in recognition of his longstanding association with the University, his commitment to Sunderland and its culture, and to the global IT business community.

Gary Fildes – Thursday, 13 July

Director, Kielder Observatory

Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his outstanding contribution to making astronomy and space science accessible to a wider audience.

Felicity Finch – Monday, 10 July

Actress, best known for playing Ruth Archer in Radio 4’s The Archers.

Honorary Doctorate of Arts, in recognition of her outstanding career as an actor, radio presenter and reporter.

Heidi Mottram OBE – Wednesday, 12 July

CEO, Northumbrian Water Group