Oxford’s honorary degrees declared

Oxford University has announced the names of the six people to receive honorary degrees in celebration of their achievements in their respective fields of study, subject to approval from Congregation.

The honorary degrees will be presented at Encaenia, the University’s annual honorary degree presentation, on June 24th.

This year’s awardees include eminent figures from the fields of engineering, medicine, history, literature, and music. The awarding of the degree is an honour bestowed in recognition of exceptional contributions to a specific field of study.

The six recipients of the honorary degrees are: Professor Sir Richard Evans, Dame Hilary Mantel, Professor Ruth Simmons, Professor Dame Ann Dowling, Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub and Ms Jessye Norman.

Evans is a prominent historian of modern Germany, and recently gave a talk at the Oxford Union. He is also the President of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and an Honorary Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford.

Dame Hilary Mantel is an author, whose most recent books on the career of Sixteenth Century Thomas Cromwell, Bring Up the Bodies and Wolf Hall, have been awarded the Man Booker Prize and have been adapted by the BBC. Mantel has also been awarded the Bodley Medal, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Professor Ruth Simmons was the President of Brown University from 2001 to 2012, and is currently a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at the university. Professor Simmons was previously the President of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the US, where she introduced the first engineering programme at an all-women’s college. Previous accolades include the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Another honorary degree holder, Professor Dowling, is an engineer who is both Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge, and President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her work focuses on minimising carbon emissions and noise of cars through the study of combustion, acoustics, and vibrations.

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Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub is a Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society and pioneer of numerous complex heart operations, and is hugely involved in providing support for children with cardiac conditions in war-torn countries.

Operatic soprano Jessye Norman has performed at several high-profile events, including the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution and the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. She has been awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Wallace Broecker, a climate change specialist, will also be presented with a degree in July, as he was unable to attend Encaenia last year.

Speaking on the honorary degrees awards, Annie Hazlitt, an Oriel undergraduate, said, “I feel that the degrees are a sign of respect to the incredible work of these individuals. As a History student, I am really happy for Richard Evans as his books on Germany are some of the best I have ever read.”

Queen’s student Ed Bithell concurred, commenting, “All the recipients have demonstrated that they are among the best in their specialities and should be recognised as such.”