It’s a broad mix but what do an author, an economist, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, a psychologist and the chairman of ITV all have in common? Well, they are all about to receive an honorary doctorate this week from the University of York.
On July 11, 12, 13, as flocks of proud parents, badly fitting mortarboards and giddy graduates descend upon the York campus to receive their degrees, six individuals will be awarded with a special recognition from the University. Honorary doctorates are the highest of accolades a University can bestow and are conferred upon individuals who have significantly contributed to society and often have links to the University.
The only woman in this year’s award’s list, Linda Grant, is an Orange Prize for Fiction winning and Booker Prize shortlisted author. Born in Liverpool and raised by Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, Grant has an established connection to York having studied English here as an undergraduate. Known for her probing and sometime polemical writing, Grant’s top success stories have been her novels The Last Iron Shore (1996) and When I Lived in Modern Times (2000) and the non-fiction account of her mother’s descent into dementia Remind Me Who I am Again (1998) which won the MIND Book of the year and the Age Concern Book of the Year.
Among the other prize winners is Archie Norman, chairman of ITV plc since 2010. A big name in the political world as well as TV, Norman was Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions in 1999, making him the only FTSE 100 chairman to have sat in those leather-clad chairs of the House of Commons. His link to the University is that he has opened up the media gateway to students of the University by supporting placements for York students at the ITV plc company.
Also receiving their prized doctorate from the University this week are Rotherham-born former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Mike Tomlinson, internationally renowned academic of psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, William Marslen-Wilson, President of Nanjing University, one of York’s key international partners, Professor Jun Chen, and leading econometrician (a tongue twister if ever I saw one), Peter Phillips.
The nomination and granting of honorary doctorates upon individuals who may or may not have a link to the University is a tradition dating back as far as the Middle Ages, with the earliest recorded honorary doctorate granted by the University of Oxford in the late 1470s to Lionel Woodville, later to become the Bishop of Salisbury. Bestowing such doctorates upon celebrities has now become rather uncommon news, with the Queen Margaret University having given an honorary doctorate this week to former student Susan Boyle.