From education to employment

Poet, leader in inclusion and pioneer in carbon reduction join graduation ceremonies

A poet, writer and performer; world leader in diversity, inclusion and culture and a pioneer in delivering carbon reduction are among the celebrated individuals receiving awards from the University during its April graduation ceremonies.

More than 2,200 soon-to-be-graduates will be joined by family and friends at Chester Cathedral to celebrate their achievements across 11 ceremonies from Tuesday, April 26 to Friday, April 29.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Eunice Simmons, said: “Each graduation ceremony in a testament to all the hard work and dedication of our graduates. They have achieved outstanding outcomes during their time at the University of Chester especially during the challenges of the pandemic. We congratulate them and wish them every success in their careers.

“We are also delighted to welcome 10 inspiring individuals, who have given so much to society. They thoroughly deserve their honorary degrees that reflect all that they have achieved. We are delighted to have them join us on these special occasions.”

  • Tuesday, 26 April 26    

Ceremony 1

Trevor Rowland Skempton will receive an honorary Doctor of Architecture (DArch) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to architecture.

Trevor was brought up in Ellesmere Port, and lives in North-East Wales. He is an architect and urban designer, with wide experience of public sector work, which has included periods as City Architect in Newcastle and Head of Architecture in Birmingham. He was a Consultant Urban Design Advisor to Liverpool City Council during the development of Liverpool One [from 2003 to 2009]. He then spent 10 years as a board member of the Design Commission for Wales. He lectures and writes on architecture, and has prepared several international competition entries. His exhibitions, publications and commissions have included graphic art, as well as more conventional architectural work. To complete a memorable month, alongside the Honorary Doctorate, Historic England has announced that an early design of his, the 1970s Richard Dunn Sports Centre in Bradford, has been Grade II listed.

He said: “My delight and pleasure in receiving the award of honorary Doctor of Architecture is given an extra dimension by the ceremony being held in Chester Cathedral, the magnificent red sandstone building which I have known and admired since I was a child in nearby Ellesmere Port.”

Ceremony 2

Dame Sally C. Davies will receive an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to medicine and health.

Dame Sally Davies is the 40th Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University and the first woman to hold the post. She was appointed as the UK Government’s Special Envoy on AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance) in 2019.

 Dame Sally was the Chief Medical Officer for England and Senior Medical Advisor to the UK Government from 2011-2019. She is a leading figure in global health, having served as a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board 2014-2016, and as co-convener of the United Nations Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group (IACG) on AMR, reporting in 2019. In November 2020, Dame Sally was announced as a member of the new UN Global Leaders Group on AMR, serving alongside Heads of State, Ministers and prominent figures from around the world to advocate for action on AMR.

In the 2020 New Year Honours, Dame Sally became the second woman to be appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) for services to public health and research, having received her DBE in 2009. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014 and a member of the National Academy of Medicine, USA in 2015.

She said: “It is a great honour to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Chester, one of the oldest academic institutions in England.”

Ceremony 3

Susan Elisabeth Sellers DL will receive an honorary Master of Arts (MA) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Cheshire.

Susan joined the NHS in 1993 as a Non-Executive Director (NED) of the local Health Authority followed by seven years as Chair of the Countess of Chester Hospital during which time it became one of the first 10 NHS Foundation Trusts. She also introduced a very successful art strategy across the hospital. She subsequently worked with a firm of recruitment consultants to develop a practice for NHS NED recruitment and spoke at a number of regional and national conferences about governance and Foundation Trust development. She was also the independent advisor on recruitment panels for several Trusts and investigated a Trust with serious governance failings.  

A trustee of The Arts Society (formerly the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS)) since 2002, she became Vice Chair and then National Chair in 2006, retiring in 2009.

In 2009 she became the Senior Independent Director of Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.  She was appointed High Sheriff of Cheshire for the year 2014/15 and became a Deputy Lieutenant of Cheshire in 2015.

Susan designs and teaches canvaswork. She was a trustee of the Royal School of Needlework in 2009 until 2016.

She is currently Vice President of the Royal British Legion Cheshire County, Patron of Tarporley War Memorial Hospital (having lived in Rushton near Tarporley for almost 40 years) and the Senior Independent Director of Active Cheshire as well as providing mentorship and governance advice to other charities.

She said: “The University of Chester is one of Cheshire’s key institutions with an impressive record in higher education. I am absolutely thrilled and most grateful to all involved in awarding me this honorary MA.”

  • Wednesday, April 27    

Ceremony 4

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

Claire has worked within the criminal justice system, notably as a Prison Governor, managing a resettlement prison and as a riot commander. She was the Equality and Diversity Lead, and later joined the FSA (the UK financial regulator) as Head of Corporate Responsibility and Culture. 

As Head of Inclusive Leadership at KPMG, she led the implementation of a new culture strategy, introduced proportional representation in decision making and realigned the staff networks to add value to the strategy implementation. Claire also supported the development of the Global UN Women’s Equality Principles toolkit.  

Claire took on the CEO role for 18 months for a small charity Diversity Role Models and turned it into a growing, award winning position with increased impact, profile and reach. In 2017, Claire was awarded an MBE for both her services to sport and to inclusion. She spent a year as Houses of Parliament Non-Executive Director advisor in relation to inclusion and culture.

As Global Inclusion Lead at Vodafone, Claire is working to embed inclusion across their global footprint. She also co-founded the Schools Inclusion Alliance (a not-for-profit supporting schools to be more inclusive), supporting schools to navigate challenges and raising inclusion capability in schools in the UK, USA, Europe and Latin America. 

Prior to acquiring her disability, Claire had played Rugby Union at the highest level. Claire took up the sport of Sitting Volleyball in 2010 and in 2012 Captained the first ever Paralympics GB Women’s Sitting Volleyball team. In 2014 she represented GB in the Athletics World Championships (in the seated throws events) and was selected for TeamGB Rio 2016, but had to withdraw due to injury. She is still a core part of the GB Sitting Volleyball team and in 2021 became part of the first ever GB Para Ice Hockey squad, working towards the World Challenge in 2023. 

She said: “Receiving this award is both an honour and a privilege. I feel so humble to be amongst such amazing people. I have been extremely lucky to have amazing role models around me who have challenged, inspired and supported me to both achieve my dreams but also using my skills to challenge inequality and have a positive impact on the world. I believe we all have a role we all play in ridding society of inequality and discrimination and that huge achievements that are only possible when we come together and bring our unique skills. I hope that in some small way, I inspire and support others to do the same.”

Ceremony 5

Dr Peter Starbuck will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) for his outstanding contribution to management research.

Peter Starbuck initially qualified as a quantity surveyor while completing National Service. He joined construction contractor Sir Alfred McAlpine and in 1966 he and his partners started WSJ, which built a wide range of construction projects, including schools, hospitals and housing for which it received national awards. It also trained managers and apprentices and as part of the Government’s Manpower Service Commission Scheme. In recognition of his contribution to St Giles Science Park Newtown, Powys, he was included in their Prince of Wales’ Award.  In 1987, WSJ was sold to a public property company and Peter joined as a Strategy Director.

In 1974 he read Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices and in 1992 his work pattern changed and he was able to devote half of his time to studying Drucker. He studied for a Doctorate on the Genesis of Drucker’s ideas from The Open University Business School.

He is a Researcher and Contributor on Management to the British Library and holds fellowships with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Building and the Chartered Management Institute.In March 2014, he was appointed as Visiting Professor to the University of Chester. This enabled his Drucker research to be incorporated into the syllabi for University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS). He was appointed Founding Professor at the UCS and his 750 book Drucker-related research library has been dedicated and housed within the University.

He said: “The Honorary Degree is an unexpected compliment which is a significant endorsement for my ongoing research projects.”

Ceremony 6

Benjamin Zephaniah will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to literature and the arts.  

Benjamin Zephaniah was one of the pioneers of the performance poetry scene in Britain. He was part of the ‘school’ known as the ‘Dub Poets’; who worked blended rhythmic poetry with reggae music. He has performed around the world and his poetry mixes serious issues with humour and is accessible to a wide range of people. His strongest area of interest is looking at how poetry works in performance and its relationship to music. 

Zephaniah has written poetry books for children, adults, and novels for teenagers. As well as writing plays for stage, radio, and television, he is constantly touring with his music band The Revolutionary Minds. He is also an actor and television presenter, and his passions are animal rights, human rights, and Kung Fu. 

He has been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and alongside other writers has helped to set up the Black Writers’ Guild which promotes the work of black writers, and advises publishing houses on how to make sure their staff are diverse and representative of the communities they serve. His recordings have many influences including, Jazz, Hip Hop, and Dubstep. He contributes to many radio programmes and has presented documentaries on radio and television concerning literature, culture, race and politics. 

He is the patron of 35 organisations and has been writer in residence at Keats House (London), Memphis State University, Ohio State University, and he has worked in various capacities at Shanghai Tongji University, The University of The West Indies – Jamaica, The Women’s University Seoul, Pyongyang University North Korea, University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg, and he worked with The Open University encouraging young people from minorities groups to take up higher education. 

In the last year he has published three books and his latest, We Sang Across the Sea, The Empire Windrush and Me, was published earlier this month. He is currently working on the stage dance version of the TV drama Peaky Blinders, he is producing a Radio Four programme on the life of his favorite poet, Percy Shelley, and producing music with the electronic music producer Moby. 

He is currently Writer in Residence at Storyhouse, Chester, visiting professor at De Montfort University, Leicester, and Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Brunel University, London.

He said: “I chanted ‘free Nelson Mandela’ on the streets of Chester in 1979, when I first performed in the city, and I have performed in the city many times since then. It is a city that gave me a platform when I wasn’t well known, and I have always been made welcomed when I visit. I am currently writer in Residence at the Storyhouse, so I think this Honorary Degree from this great University, cements my relationship with the city. This journey, which started with me working with young people, campaigning against apartheid, being part of a great artistic community, and now being honoured by the University, is I think, a great recognition of the journey I have been on with the city and its people. The University of Chester and I, are now one.”

  • Thursday, April 28    

Ceremony 7

John Sullivan O’Doherty (Ian) will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to business in the North West. 

Ian O’Doherty is currently CEO of Appreciate Group plc, based in Liverpool, a provider of prepaid gift cards and vouchers, and digital rewards services.  He is also the non-executive Chair of Chester Race Company Ltd and was previously a Governor of The King’s School, Chester. Ian has more than 30 years of experience in financial services in the USA, Ireland and the UK, nine years of which were spent as Chair and CEO of MBNA Ltd based in Chester. During that time, MBNA supported many activities in Chester such as the opening of Storyhouse, the growth of Chester Marathon, the reforming of Chester FC, the review by the Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel, and a host of educational and charitable initiatives. Ian holds degrees in Civil and Structural Engineering from University College Dublin and the University of Missouri and an MBA from Carroll Graduate School of Management, Boston College.

He said:“I am honoured and humbled to be awarded this Honorary Doctorate. Chester has been very welcoming to me and my family, so it is wonderful to be recognised in this way by the University. No one achieves anything without support from many people, and I see this award as recognition of my family and all my colleagues over the years who have made it possible for me to do what I do.”

Ceremony 8

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

Valérie Masterson studied 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 while 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. She has made numerous recordings and regularly appeared in all the major concert halls around the world as well as appearing on television and radio.

She has many awards to her credit including The Lawrence Olivier Award for the most outstanding solo operatic performance. She was awarded the C.B.E. by Her Majesty The Queen in 1987 and in 1993 was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, and a Doctor of Letters from South Bank University in 1999.

She said: “I am delighted to receive this prodigious honour today, as having set off 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, April 29    

Ceremony 10

Graham Peter Phillips MBE, DL will receive an honorary Master of Arts (MA) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to business and for his role as Managing Director of Cheshire Young Carers.

Graham Phillips has had a successful career in business owing a number of business culminating in ownership of a software house suppling class leading software to hospitals around the world.

Nearly ten years ago he sold the business and decided to devote his time to the third sector. He has been involved in Scouting for most of his life, holding many senior positions including 12 years as County Commissioner for Scouting in Cheshire where he led the organisation through the covid period. He is now leading a national project (as a volunteer) for Scouting to introduce new digital tools for adult volunteers in a multimillion-pound investment in technology.

 For the last nine years he has been CEO of Cheshire Young Carers, an organisation that supports some of the estimated 40,000 children in Cheshire who are young carers. He has developed a strategy to support schools helping to deliver improved educational outcomes for young carers and a large range of respite opportunities with the aim of giving young carers a piece of their childhood back. Graham is a deputy to the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, he was awarded the Silver Wolf, the highest award for adult volunteers in Scouting in 2016 and in 2021 he was awarded an MBE for services to children.

He said: “Having spent most of my life living and working in Cheshire I am thrilled to receive this great honour from the University of Chester which I believe reflects the valuable work undertaken by the third sector in supporting young people in Cheshire.”

Ceremony 11

Garry Charnock will receive an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project.

Garry studied Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia where he met his wife Anne who works as a journalist. He then studied Public Health Engineering at Imperial College London before starting a new career as a technical journalist, eventually winning the Civil Engineering Journalist of the Year Award.

The couple embarked in careers as foreign correspondents before and returning to Ashton Hayes for the birth of their first son. Garry produced the first colour magazine for engineers across the Middle East during their time in Dubai. They then set up a technical publishing business in Ashton Hayes, opening offices in Norway, France and the USA before joining forces with the environmental consultant RSK Group.

In 2005, Garry became concerned about the global impact and made a speech to the Parish Council, suggesting that Ashton Hayes should aim to become England’s first carbon neutral village. The project was officially launched in January 2006 and residents have since worked together to cut energy use by almost 50% and formed a community energy company that generates power and earns revenue for the village. The University of Chester has worked closely on the project, providing independent emissions monitoring for many years. 

Garry is currently the climate change director for the Cheshire based RSK group, the world’s largest privately-owned environmental services company.

He said: “An honorary doctorate is a wonderful gift. I am delighted that my grass roots action, as an ordinary citizen, is recognised as being valuable to society.”

Related Articles