Playwright and Olympian receive honorary degrees

Sally Wainwright and Annamarie Phelps are among recipients of honorary degrees awarded over the weekend during the University’s winter graduation ceremonies.

The University of York confers honorary degrees on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society. Specifically, they need to have achieved distinction in a specific field of interest or  have made a direct contribution to the University or education and learning in general.

Often recipients have direct relationships with the University, which the University recognises as “desirable” for the conferment of an honorary degree, but it is not a necessary requirement, and it is not possible to award degrees to current politicians or members of University staff.

The selection has to be conducted  in accordance with the University’s equality and diversity policies, which the University’s Nominations Committee must oversee, in the context of broad academic areas such as arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences.

Chief amongst this year’s recipients is Sally Wainwright: an English BAFTA-winning screenwriter, executive producer and director. Her career started when, while studying English and Related Literature at the University of York, she took her own original play Hanging On to the Edinbrugh Festival. At the age of 24, she was writing for the Radio 4 series The Archers. She is best known for the BAFTA-Awarded BBC’s Happy Valleys (Best Drama Series, 2015), Last Tango in Hallifax (Best Drama Series, 2013) and ITV’s Scott and Bailey. She was also twice awarded BAFTAs for Best Writer, in 2013 and in 2015.

Annamarie Phelps is a rower and champion of Olympic sport who represented Great Britain at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and the World Rowing Championship from 1991 to 1995, winning the World Championship golden medal in 2013. As Chairman of British Rowing and Vice-Chair of the British Paralympic Association, she has been dedicated to promoting inclusivity and diversity in sport, particularly towards people who are taking up rowing for the first time.

Other recipients of honorary degrees from the University this year include Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta and Francis Pryor MBE.

Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta is the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge. He researches in the fields of malnutrition, population and enviromental resources.

Dr Francis Pryor is an English archaeologist specialising in Bronze and Iron Age Britain.  Due to a series of major excavations in the area of Peterborough, he revealed the best known Bronze Age site in Europe: by the discovery of a Bronze Age field system in Fengate, then in 1982, the timbers of a Late Bronze timber causeway and religious complex at Flag Fen. He is a regular presence on the Channel 4 series Time Team, and was awarded an MBE in 1999.

This year’s recipients join an illustrious list: in 2016 York granted honorary degrees to Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding and former Foreign Secretary and leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Hague of Richmond.

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