Inspirational Honorary Graduates for 2018 graduation ceremonies announced

Friday, 25 May 2018


British actor Toby Jones, widely regarded as one of the greatest stage and screen actors in the UK and internationally, is amongst the exceptional role models who will receive an honorary degree at Oxford Brookes University in June.

Further recipients include BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip hop artist Akala, entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den panellist Sarah Willingham and leading indigenous rights activist Marcus Colchester.

They will be joined at the June graduation ceremonies by author and historian Agnes Grunwald-Spier, Professor Bee Wee - National Clinical Director for End of Life Care for NHS England, and humanitarian Patricia Feeney.

Each of our honorary degree recipients is an exceptional role model for our students and staff, and when graduating students hear an Honorary Graduate speak, they receive an important reminder of what can be achieved.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University

Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University Professor Alistair Fitt said: “It is an honour that such inspirational figures are joining us for some of the University’s most important and memorable celebrations.

“Each of our honorary degree recipients is an exceptional role model for our students and staff, and when graduating students hear an Honorary Graduate speak, they receive an important reminder of what can be achieved.

“Honorary Graduates are chosen very carefully, and we always assess how their strengths link with the work of the University. The conferment of the degree allows Oxford Brookes to acknowledge those whom we admire and respect."

June’s graduation ceremonies will be the first to be held in the new Sir Kenneth Wheare Hall since its opening last year. The hall’s transformation was part of the University’s latest campus developments which saw £45m invested in world-class facilities for teaching and research.

2018’s Honorary Graduates

Toby Jones is known for both his performances both in the theatre and on screen. Toby’s latest film credits include Universal Pictures’ crime drama The Snowman, psychological indie thriller Kaleidoscope and Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or nominated film, Happy End. Toby also reprised his BAFTA-nominated role in the third and final season of the award-winning comedy series Detectorists, written by and co-starring Mackenzie Crook. Toby's other works include ‎Infamous, where Toby played ‘Truman Capote’ for which he won Best British Actor at the London Film Critics Circle Awards. In 2011, Toby starred in the Oscar-nominated adaptation of John le Carre’s classic crime novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the year after, Toby garnered huge critical acclaim for his performance as Alfred Hitchcock in the HBO/BBC television movie The Girl, for which he received a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy nomination. Further credits include Sherlock, Dad’s Army, The Witness for the Prosecution, The Hunger Games series, the Harry Potter series, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, My Week With Marilyn, The Adventures of Tintin, Frost/Nixon, W and The Painted Veil. Toby can be seen in the upcoming blockbuster Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. His theatre credits include: Circle Mirror Transformation (Royal Court), The Painter (Arcola), Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (National Theatre) and The Play What I Wrote for which Toby won an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor (West End/Broadway).

Akala is a hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, and the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally. He has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry, and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts. His numerous online lectures and performances have garnered millions of views on YouTube. More recently, Akala is known for his compelling lectures and journalism and has written for The Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent. He has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.

Akala-800x450Agnes Grunwald-Spier MBE is an author, historian and alumna of Oxford Brookes’ predecessor institution the Oxford College of Technology. Born in Budapest in 1944 while it was under German occupation, she and her mother were sent to The Budapest Ghetto before being liberated in January 1945. A former civil-servant, she holds degrees in History and Politics and Holocaust Studies. Agnes was a founder trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews for 15 years, a member of the Architects’ Registration Board and a Justice of the Peace for 30 years. She was awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours List for her work as an HMDT Trustee and for services to the Jewish community and Holocaust awareness. Agnes has authored three books; Women’s experiences in the Holocaust, Who Betrayed the Jews? and The Other Schindlers.

Professor Bee Wee is the National Clinical Director for End of Life Care for NHS England, where she provides strategic leadership for improving end of life care across England. As well as hospitals and community, she also promotes better care for people in care homes, prisons and those who are homeless. In 2015, she led the development and publication of Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care: A national framework for local action 2015-2020, bringing together 27 national partners across health and care, and statutory and voluntary sectors. She is also Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Sir Michael Sobell House, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Associate Professor and Governing Body Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University. Bee is Past President of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland and is an honorary member of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, and of General Practice. Last year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal by the European Society for Person Centered Healthcare for her academic, policy and clinical contributions to person centered healthcare for patients and families.

Prof-Bee-Wee-800x450Marcus Colchester lived for two years with the Sanema Indians of the northern Amazon while studying anthropology in the 1970s. He then joined the UK NGO Survival International where he worked to expose the human rights impact of imposed development schemes in the Amazon, South East Asia and beyond. Marcus went on to become a founder of the World Rainforest Movement, an international network of activists worried about the destruction of the rainforests and social justice. Seven years after joining Survival International, he set up his own organisation, the Forest Peoples Programme. This has developed into a significant NGO which campaigns for recognition of the indigenous rights of forest-dwelling people and the safeguarding of their forests. Marcus has consulted for the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Programme of the UN and a host of other global bodies. He has also published extensively in academic and NGO journals and has written and edited a variety of books.

Sarah Willingham is an entrepreneur, former Dragon’s Den panellist and Oxford Brookes University alumna. Starting her career working in a restaurant at the age of 13, Sarah went on to turn her passion for business, food and drink into a multi-million pound business empire. In 2003, Sarah bought The Bombay Bicycle Club and turned it into the largest and most successful Indian restaurant chain in the UK, realising her skill for spotting an original and exciting new business concept and helping it grow rapidly. She has appeared alongside Raymond Blanc as a judge and investor on the popular BBC2 series The Restaurant and later joined the team of Dragons on the popular BBC2 television show Dragons’ Den. Today Sarah runs her business portfolio from her home office alongside her entrepreneur husband Michael Toxvaerd. They jointly invest in and support more than 10 business ventures from start-ups to established and growing brands. Sarah has received a number of accolades for her contribution to business including Business Weekly’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, entry in The Times’ 35 Most Successful Women under 35, the Who’s Who of British Business Leaders and 100 most influential entrepreneurs in the UK by City AM. In January 2016, she was named at one of The Sunday Times’ 500 Most Influential People in Britain.

Sarah-Willingham-800x450Patricia Feeney’s career has been spent on the front lines of human rights and humanitarian work in Latin America and Africa. During that time, she has had senior roles and extensive field experience in world-leading non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam and Amnesty International, where she investigated the enforced disappearance of thousands of opponents of the Argentine military juntas. She has written extensively on human rights, international developments and the governance of companies in post-conflict countries. She has worked for the United Nations as a consultant for UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She has advised the UK Government on corporate governance and served on the board of the International Code of Conduct Association for Private Security Providers. In 1998, Patricia founded a research and advocacy organisation, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), a trail blazer in the field of business and human rights.  During her time at the helm of RAID, she travelled extensively in Africa - to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. RAID’s work ranged from legal actions against mining companies complicit in war crimes to pressing stock markets for more effective regulation of companies involved in corruption and human rights abuses.