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Celebrating achievement at graduation ceremonies

award and confetti

More than 2,700 soon-to-be-graduates will be joined by their family and friends at Chester Cathedral this week to celebrate their achievements.

The University of Chester will host its graduation ceremonies across four days from Tuesday, November 1 to Friday, November 4. 

They will be joined by seven inspiring individuals who will also be recognised by the University for their achievements in their respective fields including sport, business, music and the arts. 

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Eunice Simmons, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming our latest graduates to celebrate their achievements in the majestic surroundings of Chester Cathedral. We congratulate them and will be supporting them as they embark on their careers. 

“We are also very pleased to welcome distinguished individuals who have given so much to society and it gives us great pleasure to award them honorary degrees that recognise their significant achievements.”

  • Tuesday, November 1

Ceremony 2

Claire Harvey MBE will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to sports, diversity and inclusion.

Claire is an experienced senior leader, inclusion expert and Paralympian. Currently working as Global Inclusion Lead for Vodafone, and previously working as Head of inclusive leadership at KPMG, Claire is recognised as a world leader in diversity, inclusion and culture, incorporating change management and leadership behaviours into impactful change. 

Ceremony 3

Joëlle Warren MBE, DL will receive an honorary Master of Business Administration (MBA) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to business. 

Joëlle is the Founding Partner of Warren Partners, the purpose-led Cheshire-headquartered search firm, where she chairs the Employee-Owned Trust board and advises on Chair and Non-Executive appointments to businesses across the UK. She is passionate about improving effectiveness in the boardroom through achieving the right balance of skills, diversity and experience and has worked with the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, FTSE Women Leaders and the CBI’s Change the Race Ratio to ensure Warren Partners takes a lead in initiatives to move the dial on leadership diversity, particularly in the regions and beyond the FTSE 350. She was appointed Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire in 2010 and was the founding Chair of Cheshire Community Foundation from 2011. Deputy Chair of the North West Business Leadership Team, Joëlle also serves as a Non-Executive Director on the Board of the Chester Race Company and on the CBI’s SME Council. In 2019 she was appointed by the Prime Minister to Chair the Crown Nominations Commission for the appointment of the next Archbishop of York. She received an MBE in 2016 for Services to Business. 

  • Wednesday, November 2 

Ceremony 4 

Professor Henry Sun will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to business. 

Henry X. Hong Sun is the Dean of International Affairs, Institute of Urban Governance, Shenzhen University, and a Member of Academic Committee of Institute of Global Cooperation and Understanding, Peking University. Professor Sun’s current and past academic affiliations include fellowships at Rothermere American Institute, Oxford University (2011), ASH Center, Harvard Kennedy School (2010), Asian Studies Center, Sciences Po, Paris (2009), American Studies Center, Peking University (2008); Member of Editorial Boards of the Journal of Political Marketing (USA) and the Journal of Public Affairs (UK); Visiting Professor at Business School of the University of Chester, China University of Politics and Law, Jiangxi University of Economics and Finance, and Management School of New York Institute of Technology, where he lectured on International Marketing, Consumer Behavior, and Political Marketing.   

He said: “With the encouragement of an honorary degree awarded by the University of Chester, I will continue to promote people’s communication and cooperation in a global village where the Sun never sets!”

Ceremony 5 

Keith Skempton CBE, DL will receive an honorary Master of Business Administration (MBA) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the work of the Cheshire Military Museum.

Major General Keith Skempton CBE DL held many roles in the Army throughout his distinguished career. As Colonel he oversaw support to the 1st Armoured Division, just as they returned from the Iraq war in 1991. He then went on to the Army Headquarters and was responsible for the support for logistic operations in former Yugoslavia both in United Nations and NATO configuration.   

Promoted and posted as a brigadier, Chief of Staff in Cyprus, he was then brought to NATO’s Rapid Reaction Corps as Deputy Chief of Staff for support under General Sir Mike Jackson and sent on an early reconnaissance to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (now North Macedonia) to evaluate requirements for a potential operation into Kosovo. This led to him commanding the Advance Party to Skopje and the setting up of conditions and facilities to receive the Rapid Reaction Corps Headquarters and the lead elements of the five attached NATO brigades. He co-ordinated the logistic requirements of the corps and provided the interface with Non-Government Organisations assisting in the setting up of Refugee camps for approximately 250,000 refugees. He was later awarded the Queens Commendation for Valuable Service. He went on to be promoted to Major General as an assistant chief of staff to the four-star US Admiral responsible for NATO’s southern region in Naples, where Keith’s experience proved invaluable when reductions of force size within NATO were required.  

On retirement from the Army, he maintained his role as honorary Colonel of the Cheshire Regiment. Amalgamation of the Battalion was required, and in 2007, the Regiment was formed into The Mercian Regiment.  

Civilian work started as a business development director at Ferranti’s in Bangor, followed by 18 months as Operations Director at Chester Cathedral and then a Defence Director at Capita Property and Infrastructure in a defence advisory and business development role. He has since been an independent advisor but included time as a Trustee at the Military Museum at the Castle. He is also president of SSAFA Cheshire and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.  

He said: “I am seriously honoured with this award and believe it to be valuable recognition of transferable skills with respect to my military and business career as well as my involvement in Military heritage and Service charities.”

Ceremony 6

Lady Rose Cholmondeley will receive an honorary Master of Music (MMus) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts. 

Rose Cholmondeley grew up in Cheshire at Cholmondeley Castle. She went to Cranborne Chase School where she was encouraged by Harrison Birtwhistle to study music. She later joined the National Youth Orchestra and attended the Arts Educational Trust School in London before going to the Royal College of Music where she obtained an Associate of the Royal College of Music (ARCM).  

Continuing her studies in Paris, she received the Performers’ Diploma of the Conservatoire Rachmaninoff while studying with the Polish Professor Constantin Schmaeling, famous for Chopin interpretation.  

She was introduced to the Chopin Society in London by its then President, the eminent pianist Louis Kentner and in 1985 was invited by the Society’s founder, Lucie Swiatek, to become its Chairman. She has performed all over the world and in the Chopin bicentenary year 2020, she appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC TV and was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.  She also organised a series of events around London in places with Chopin connections.  

Since 1991, the Chopin Society under her Chairmanship has organised big fundraising events in venues such as Lambeth Palace, the House of Commons, Lancaster House, Strawberry Hill House, and – in particular – four at London’s Guildhall, where Chopin performed for the very last time.  

  • Thursday, November 3

Ceremony 9

Valérie Masterson will receive an honorary Doctor of Music (DMus) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts.  

Valérie Masterson studied first at the Matthay School of Music in Liverpool and after at the Royal College of Music where she was awarded the Queen’s prize for the most outstanding student of the year and a Countess of Munster award to study singing in Milan. She made her concert debut in the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent whilst still a student. Her operatic debut came a year later at the Landestheater in Salzburg.

She went on to sing in all the major opera houses of the world including English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House Cogent Garden, along with the Metropolitan, New York, La Scala Milan, Munich, Paris, Prague, Geneva, Barcelona, Santiago, San Francisco and many more. She has many awards to her credit including The Sir Lawrence Olivier Award for the most outstanding solo operatic performance. She was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen in 1987, in 1993 she was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, a RAM in 1994 and a Doctor of Letters by the South Bank University in 1999.

She is a Vice-President of British Youth Opera, The Rossini Society of Paris, The Mousehole Male Voice Choir, and many more.

She said: “I am delighted to receive prodigious honour today, as having set off as a student born and bred in Cheshire and travelled the world it brings my career full circle and is the culmination of a dream fulfilled.”

  • Friday, November 4

Ceremony 11

Stephen McGann will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts.

Stephen McGann is a leading UK actor who has worked extensively in British theatre and on screen for 40 years. He can currently be seen starring as Dr Turner in the BBC global hit TV medical series Call the Midwife.  

 Stephen is also a keen public speaker, writer and communicator on the role of science and medicine in popular culture. He holds an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London and has appeared as a guest speaker at the Cambridge, Cheltenham, Oxford and Imperial science festivals. In 2017, Stephen published a family memoir called Flesh and Blood – a social history of his Liverpool-Irish family as told through the medical ailments that each generation suffered. Most recently, Stephen has written Call the Midwife – A Labour of Love – a celebration of ten years of Call the Midwife, featuring behind-scenes stories and reflections from the cast and crew.  

He said: “As a child of Liverpool, I’m particularly proud and delighted to be awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Chester. When I was a boy, Chester was a place I escaped to – full of the history that I loved. The Roman museum – the beautiful and ancient cathedral – somewhere where a bookish working-class child could dream and imagine places beyond himself. That’s where all good education begins; in travelling to new places that can challenge and spark passion. Chester was all of that, and it’s nice to come back and say thank you for what it has given to me.”

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