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Award-winning film director among University of Warwick honorary graduates

The University of Warwick awarded honorary degrees to a number of outstanding individuals this week as part of its winter graduation ceremonies, including the BAFTA award-winning writer behind the hit ‘Nativity’ films and the former CEO at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

Birmingham-born Debbie Isitt is an acclaimed screenwriter, director and writer who has proudly championed arts within the West Midlands for many years. She created and directed four films in the hugely popular ‘Nativity’ series, with the first film shot in locations around Coventry and Warwickshire.

In 2005, Debbie won a BAFTA and an international EMMY for her adaptation of the Jacqueline Wilson novel The Illustrated Mum, and has also had notable success in theatre, with Nativity! The Musical’ in its fourth year of touring the UK.

Professor Sir Ralf Speth, Chairman of TVS Motor Company, Director of Tata Sons, and former CEO of JLR, was also recognised for his achievements.

An honorary professor at Warwick Manufacturing Group, he has been closely connected with WMG since studying at the University for his engineering doctorate, under the pioneering leadership of former WMG Chairman Lord Bhattacharyya. Sir Ralf is widely recognised for his transformative leadership at JLR.

Other notable recipients included:

  • The acclaimed chemist, Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff, host of The Periodic Table of Videos, which documents each of the chemical elements in an accessible way to huge online audiences. His YouTube channel has over 1.5 million subscribers.
  • Professor Adi Shamir, co-inventor of the Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA) algorithm and cryptographer. The RSA algorithm has been revolutionary for e-commerce, using encryption to allow consumers to shop online safely.
  • Mathematician, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. He is former President of the European Research Council, which is vital in funding research and students across the continent.
  • Anti-poverty campaigner and housing expert Delroy Beverley, who has held senior positions within local government and the social housing sector.
  • Dr Peter Kent, the former headteacher of Rugby’s Lawrence Sheriff school and John Hung, a senior partner at Deloitte Asia Pacific and renowned business leadership coach.

Management consultant, author and philanthropist Patrick Dunne meanwhile received a Chancellor’s Medal. He has extensive experience of developing social enterprises, most notably with Warwick in Africa which is transforming Maths and English teaching across schools in Africa.

Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick, said: “We’re delighted to recognise these outstanding people, all of whom have made such a positive impact on public life, helping improve society for the better in their chosen field.

“Graduation is always a special time for our community and we wish all those who graduated with us this week, the best of luck in the next chapter of their story.”

The awarding of honorary doctorates forms part of the University’s graduation ceremonies, which are held twice a year. This year’s winter graduations include those graduates who missed their ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic in January 2022.

The full list of figures who received awards this year, including biographies and pictures, can be found here.