Honorary degree for Chiefs head coach
Exeter Chiefs Head Coach Rob Baxter will be awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter after the rugby team’s stunning performance this season led them to become national champions.
Mr Baxter oversaw the Exeter Chiefs rise from the championship to winning the English premiership within less than a decade. He was an Exeter Chiefs player for 14 years.
He will join other illustrious figures who have made a contribution to science, journalism, the Army, education and charity work being honoured during degree ceremonies next week. This includes Dr Mireille Gillings, a global leader in accelerating development of biopharma innovation from China who has pioneered collaborating with Chinese academic and commercial organizations to improve public health and create global value for China-sourced biopharma compounds.
Mr Baxter said he was “delighted and hugely honoured” to receive an honorary degree.
“I have a long history with the city of Exeter and the University and both have played a huge part in my career as both a rugby player and now a professional coach,” he said.
“When working as the head coach at the University the most enjoyable aspect was the purity of the commitment and attitude of the players. They all took part in training and playing for the right reasons, to challenge themselves, to be part of something bigger than the individual and to build friendships and memories. This has always been an influence on me in my coaching career.
“I now have been allowed the opportunity to share a day which marks the recognition and celebration of hard work and achievement for many graduands and their families and I feel very fortunate to be able to congratulate them and share a few thoughts with them on what their futures may hold.”
Dr Gillings, who is CEO and Founder of HUYA Bioscience International, said: “I am enormously proud to receive this honorary degree from the University of Exeter, a forever institution, whose Medical School has made such great contribution to patients in so short a space of time. As I share this day with all the graduates of 2017 I say to them - don’t be afraid to take risks as you move forward in your career, don’t wait for the opportunity create it.”
Also receiving honorary degrees are Jez Butterworth, one of the greatest war photographers Sir Don McCullin, journalist Lindsey Hilsum and Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles, the first female College Commander in The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst’s 200 year history.
Other honorary graduates are Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, Professor Bertil Andersson, President of the Nanyang Technological University Singapore, educational consultant Dr Tony Sewell CBE, Times columnist and writer Philip Collins and Peter Lacey, who has served as Chairman of Exeter Initiative, Exeter Business Forum and the Exeter Vision Partnership.
Lady Studholme, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Exeter Northcott Theatre, Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK and Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist at Digital Science & Research Solutions Ltd, will also receive honorary degrees.
The theatre work of Jeremy ‘Jez’ Butterworth, who becomes a doctor of letters, has been performed all over the world, in the West End and on Broadway, winning many awards. His latest play The Ferryman is the fastest selling play in the history of the Royal Court Theatre.
Lindsey Hilsum is the International Editor of Channel 4 News, and has covered major international events for three decades. Before becoming a journalist, Ms Hilsum, an Exeter graduate, was an aid worker.
Ms Hilsum said: "I have used the Spanish and French that I learnt at Exeter throughout my career as a journalist, and the reading of literature has been the basis not just of my story-telling but also my understanding of people and history. When I graduated from Exeter in 1980 I was so keen to get out in the world that I didn't even bother to attend the ceremony. Having met so many people in the Middle East, Africa and beyond who are desperate for an education like the one I received here, I think I was blithe and rather ungrateful. I'm very grateful now, not just for this honorary degree but for the education I took for granted back then."
Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles oversees the leadership development of officer cadets on the Regular Commissioning Course through a programme of academic study, military exercises and physical training. She joined the Army in 1992 after studying Biology at Exeter.
Lieutenant Colonel Giles said: “The University of Exeter has played such an important part in my life; I learnt to enjoy learning, enjoyed the plethora of opportunities for sport, drama, radio and music, met friends for life, mastered the art of spaghetti bolognese and joined the University Officer Training Corps, which developed into my military career. I also met my future husband! I am surprised, grateful and truly humbled to receive such an honour. I look forward to continuing my association with the University and making the exceptional happen.”
Dr Sewell worked as a teacher in some of London's most challenging secondary schools and played a key role in transforming education in Hackney as part of the team that set up the Learning Trust and the iconic Mossbourne School.
The ceremonies, presided over by the University Chancellor Lord Myners, will see around 4,500 students graduate in total. The graduates join an alumni community of well over 144,000, who live in 183 countries.
University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith, said: “We are so proud of our newest graduates, who have worked so hard, and we wish them well for the future as they no doubt go on to do great things. It is always very special to be part of this big moment in their lives.
“We are also very pleased to be able to introduce our honorary graduates, many of who studied at the University of Exeter, and to mark their outstanding achievements.”
For more information on graduation, including how to watch live streaming of the ceremonies, visit the University’s website