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Now That’s What I Call an Honorary Graduate §10: Doctors of Many Letters

Paul Greatrix lists some of the famous names who have been bestowed with an honorary degree in the past few years
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

It’s been a while since our last edition of Now That’s What I Call an Honorary Graduate where we noted the honours dished out to stars of stage and screen.

It’s about time therefore that we looked at some of those great women and men of letters who have rightly been recognised by universities around the globe.

First up is Michael Morpurgo, described by Newcastle University as a “true champion of children’s books” whose 40 year career has seen him publish over 150 books for children, including War Horse, Private Peaceful and Kensuke’s Kingdom. He was the third Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005,

Mario Vargos Llosa, already proud Nobel laureate, nevertheless added another award as he was honoured by Stockholm University. One of my favourite authors Jim Crace was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Brighton.

Meanwhile Sofia University decided to honour the ever quotable Deepak Chopra who, it says here, “has gained international acclaim with his extensive experience in body mind medicine, wellness-based research, and spirituality”. He was chosen by the Sofia University Board of Trustees for his extensive research in these fields apparently. He is very quotable though:

Love is not just a mere sentiment. It’s not just a mere emotion, although that’s wonderful. But love is the ultimate truth at the heart of the universe. That kind of love will transform you and transform the rest of the world, or whoever you come into contact with – not because of what you say, not because of what you do, but because of your presence.

Closer to home, Stephen Moffat received an Honorary from the University of the West of Scotland. Conferred in his home town of Paisley, the degree was in recognition of his many writing credits including for Dr Who, Sherlock and the incomparable Press Gang.

Marilynne Robinson, author of the award-winning Gilead, among other works, was recently honoured by Yale.

We have noted here before that George R R Martin, creator of the massively popular Game of Thrones, was awarded an Honorary Degree by Texas A & M University but has just been too busy to collect it. Although the degree has yet to be conferred, the popular author has a load of other stuff going on with the University.

Henry Normal, prolific writer and poet and favourite son of Nottingham, was recently recognised by the University (and indeed by NTU as well). He makes a great pair with John Cooper Clarke who was awarded his by Salford a few years ago. The two docs indeed.

Stuart MacBride, bestselling author of the Logan McRae and Ash Henderson novels, received an honorary Doctor of Literature from Robert Gordon University while Salman Rushdie added yet another award for his overflowing trophy cabinet with the conferment of an honorary from Indiana University.

Yale honoraries 2019 – an impressive collection

Duke honoured Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose best-selling novels, including “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah”, have really made a mark. She was also awarded an Honorary by Yale .

Gary Younge, award winning journalist and author, was recognised for his achievements recently by the University of Warwick. He clearly liked the atmosphere as it has recently been announced he is taking up an academic role at the University of Manchester.

The University of Silesia awarded an honorary to multi-award winning author J M Coetzee to add to the dozen or so he already has on the wall.

Then in the two for one category we have comedian, Peep Show star and author Robert Webb who was recognised by Lincoln University. And also in the multiple talent category there is academic, writer and activist Gloria Steinem who was also awarded a degree by Yale.

In a slightly different tone there were calls in 2019 for the University of Birmingham to revoke the honorary degree it had awarded to Ann Widdicombe. Famous primarily for her political career it is not clear how much her four novels contributed to the case for the honorary.

Finally, a really notable award here from the University of Bristol. She’s not a writer but a twitcher and conservationist and 17 year old Mya-Rose Craig has been recognised by the University for the positive change she has made for nature but also becomes, probably, the youngest honorary graduate recipient ever.

Nice work Dr Craig.

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