Inspirational Honorary Graduates announced

Wednesday, 03 June 2015

Hilary Mantel

Novelist Hilary Mantel, motorcycling world champion John Surtees and social activist Zainab Bangura will receive honorary degrees at Oxford Brookes University graduation ceremonies this month.

Further recipients include Richard Jobson, Co-founder and Director, and John Ridgett, Associate Director at Design Engine – the architects for the award-winning John Henry Brookes Building.

Each of the recipients is an exceptional role model for our students, staff and the wider community. To have such inspirational figures joining us for some of the University’s most memorable moments is a real honour.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University

They will be joined at the June graduation ceremonies by Sarah Winckless, former British Olympic rower, Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and Professor Viv Bennett, Director of Nursing of Public Health England. 

Bryan Brown, who has been integral to the brand development of Oxford Brookes and this year published a biography of John Henry Brookes, will also be honoured.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes said: “I’m pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s honorary degrees. Each of the recipients is an exceptional role model for our students, staff and the wider community.  To have such inspirational figures joining us for some of the University’s most memorable moments is a real honour. 

“Graduation will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to again celebrate the fantastic achievement that is the John Henry Brookes Building by honouring the architects behind it, Richard Jobson and John Ridgett.

“Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novels have been enjoyed by millions of readers. As Brookes is home to the Booker Prize Archive it will be a particular privilege to honour the only woman writer to have won the illustrious prize twice.

“In our 150th year, we continue to celebrate the strong values and passion of John Henry Brookes who was so integral to the University. We have Bryan Brown to thank for continuing to shine a light on his legacy in his recent biography and reminding us of the origins, ethics and ideals that make Oxford Brookes a unique place to study and work in today.”

Bryan Brown, author, Honorary Fellow and advisor

Hilary Mantel said: “I am looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes. 

“As home to the Booker Prize Archive and an excellent Creative Writing MA course, the University is a custodian of contemporary fiction while at the same time inspiring a new generation of novelists.

“Education fires the imagination, instills self-belief and provides a strong work ethic – all important traits whatever one chooses to do in life, but particularly vital for authors.”

The honorary degrees will be awarded at ceremonies in Oxford Brookes’ Main Hall at the Headington Campus. Start times for the ceremonies are:

Mon 22 June
10am John Surtees
3:30pm John Ridgett & Richard Jobson

Tues 23 June
12:30pm Bryan Brown
3:30pm Sir John Bell

Weds 24 June
10am Sarah Winckless
3.30pm Prof Viv Bennett

Fri 26 June
6pm Dame Hilary Mantel

Saturday 27 June
12.30pm Zainab Bangura

Full biographies of our honorary degree recipients can be found below.

Sarah Winckless Honorary Grad

Writer Dame Hilary Mantel won her first Booker Prize for the 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, a fictional account of life in the court of Henry VIII. She won her second for the 2012 sequel, Bring Up the Bodies and was the first woman to receive the award twice.  Dame Hilary was originally due to receive an honorary degree last year but will instead receive the award on Friday 26 June 2015.

Former motorcycling world champion John Surtees OBE is the only man ever to have won world championships on two and four wheels which ranks him among the greatest motor racers of all time. He won seven world championships on motorcycles, one Formula One world drivers’ title and the North American Can-Am Championship for sports cars. 

John Surtees talking to Brookes students

Zainab Hawa Bangura is a social activist and Sierra Leonean politician. She holds the position of United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and is an experienced civil society, human and women’s rights campaigner and democracy activist, fighting corruption and impunity. She has previously worked as the Minister for Health and Sanitation for the Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and developed policies and programmes on national health and sanitation to ensure accessible and affordable health care delivery services to the people of Sierra Leone. 

Zainab Bangura

Professor Viv Bennett has been Nurse Director for Public Health England since 2012. As such she is the Government’s Principle Advisor on Public Health Nursing, providing high quality and independent nursing advice to ministers and officials on policy issues and public health nursing. She has a special interest in services for children and young people in all of her clinical and leadership roles and leads the national public health programme ‘Best Start for All Our Children’, the Health Visiting Programme and the School Nurse Development Programmes.  Prof Bennett trained as a nurse in Oxford in 1976 and worked in children’s nursing before training as a health visitor in Oxford. While working as a health visitor she studied for a BA and then a Masters degree in health and social policy. Prof Bennett is also a visiting professor at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute. 

Prof Viv Bennett

Richard Jobson, Co-founder and Director and John Ridgett, Associate Director of Design Engine will both receive an honorary degree this year. Design Engine is the company behind Oxford Brookes University’s magnificent centrepiece, the John Henry Brookes Building and the Abercrombie Extension. 

Thanks to Design Engine’s outstanding expertise, the John Henry Brookes Building has won a string of prestigious awards. These have included a 2014 National RIBA Award, three regional RIBA awards, the 2014 Architects Journal Retrofit Award, an Education Estates Award and a plaque from the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards.  Since opening, the John Henry Brookes Building has become a much loved hub of learning and social activity both with students and staff.

John Ridgett and Richard Jobson

Professor Sir John Bell FRS is Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and Chairman of the Office for the Strategic Coordination of Health Research. His research interests are in the areas of autoimmune disease and immunology where he has contributed to the understanding of immune activation in a range of autoimmune diseases. In 1993, he founded the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, one of the world’s leading centres for complex trait common disease genetics. In December 2011, Sir John was appointed one of two UK Life Sciences Champions by the Prime Minister and in 2015 was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to medicine, medical research and the life science industry. 

Sir John Bell

Throughout her career, former British Olympic rower Sarah Winckless won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and was twice World Champion in 2005 and 2006 before retiring in 2009. She is now a top level sports mentor and Chairman of the British Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission and has recently led the most successful Youth Olympic Games team to date as Chef de Mission for Team GB in Nanjing.  This experience as a leader in her own field, coupled with a fascination for neuroscience and her belief in human possibilities has led her to her career as a leadership coach. 

Bryan Brown is already an Honorary Fellow of Oxford Brookes, adviser to the University and recommended the name and designed the brand identity in 1992. His biography, entitled John Henry Brookes: The man who inspired a university, was published earlier this year by the University. Bryan has led the campaign to reassert John Henry Brookes’ fading legacy, one which is fundamental to our successful history and our future.