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Warwick to award honorary degrees to radio Reverend, Olympic rowing coach, dyslexia researcher, author, leading literary critic, and teaching innovator

The University of Warwick has announced that it will award honorary degrees to six people at its winter degree ceremonies which will run from 20th to 22nd January 2016. Those to be honoured include:

  • Radio and TV cleric The Reverend Richard Coles
  • Warwickshire born science fiction, fantasy, & climbing writer M John Harrison
  • Renowned critic of Latin American fiction Professor Gerald Martin
  • Leading dyslexia researcher Professor Margaret Snowling
  • Olympic rowing coach Mr Paul Thompson MBE
  • Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Teach First Mr Brett Wigdortz OBE

The dates on which each of those individuals will receive their degree and the type of degree they will receive now follows along with short biographies on each and press opportunities.

Revd Richard ColesThe Reverend Richard Coles (Hon DLitt - Honorary Doctor of Letters) Wednesday 20 January, press opportunity 4.45pm

A musician (three top ten chart hits with the Communards), writer, broadcaster, and Church of England minister. Accomplished on saxophone, clarinet and keyboards his musical partnership with Jimmy Somerville in the 1980s band the Communards included the Number 1 record and best-selling single of 1986, a club/dance version of "Don't Leave Me This Way". He frequently appears on radio and television (as well as in print) most often as a host of BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live programme. In January 2011, Coles was appointed as the parish priest of St Mary the Virgin, Finedon in the Diocese of Peterborough. He was an inspiration for the character of Adam Smallbone (played by Tom Hollander) in the BBC Two sitcom Rev, and was an adviser to the show. He also has a Warwickshire connection having studied in the Department of Drama & the Liberal Arts in the then South Warwickshire College of Further Education in Stratford-upon-Avon.

M John HarrisonMr M (Michael) John Harrison (Hon DLitt – Honorary Doctor of Letters)
Wednesday 20 January, press opportunity 12.30pm

Rugby born M John Harrison's writing covers such a wide range of themes that he has been described in the Guardian as a 'genre contrarian'. He began his career as the agenda-setting literary editor of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds and his fiction ranges from science fiction such as The Committed Men and the award winning Kefahuchi Tract trilogy, horror The Course of the Heart, fantasy/SF crossovers such as the award nominated Viriconium books and stories and even cats (he co-wrote four linked fantasies about cats with Jane Johnson, under the pseudonym "Gabriel King").

His interest in rock climbing led to his semi-autobiographical novel Climbers (1989), the first novel to receive the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Harrison also ghost-wrote the autobiography of one of Britain's best rock climbers, Ron Fawcett (Fawcett on Rock, 1987. He has also reviewed fiction and nonfiction for The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times.

His work was celebrated at a special academic conference at Warwick in 2014 and you can listen to a podcast of an interview with him by one of the conference organisers by clicking the play button on this page:

Professor Gerald Martin photo credit - knopf.jpgProfessor Gerald Martin (Hon DLitt - Honorary Doctor of Letters)
Friday 22nd January, press opportunity 12.30pm

Professor Gerald Martin is a renowned critic of Latin American fiction. He is particularly known for his work on the Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias and on the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, both of whom are winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. His 2008 book, Gabriel García Márquez, A Life, was the first full biography of García Márquez to be published in English.

He taught for many years at Portsmouth Polytechnic, where he helped to organise the world’s first undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies, which pioneered the student year abroad in Latin America. In 1984 he became the first Professor of Hispanic Studies in the Polytechnic sector. He worked for 25 years as the only English-speaking member of the Colección Archivos in Paris and in Pittsburgh became President of the Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana. During the period 1992-2007 he was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Languages in the University of Pittsburgh.

His research and publications and translations have focused on the Latin American novel. In the 1980s he concentrated on the history of literature and the arts, contributing three major chapters to the Cambridge History of Latin America and publishing Journeys through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century (1989). He is currently working on a biography of Mario Vargas Llosa.

Professor Margaret Snowling (Hon DSc- Honorary Doctor of Science) Thursday 21 January, press opportunity 12.30pm

Professor Snowling is a British psychologist and the current President of St John's College, Oxford. She completed her PhD at University College London (UCL) and is best known for her work on dyslexia.

She is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Medical Sciences her contributions to the study of dyslexia have been recognised with the Lady Radnor Prize of Dyslexia Action in 2013, the Marion Welchman Award of the British Dyslexia Association in 1997, the British Psychological Society Presidents' Award in 2003, and the Samuel T. Orton award of the International Dyslexia Association in 2005.

While President of St John's College, Oxford she has been strong advocate and promoter of the '2000 Women' events, a series of events to celebrate the 2000 women matriculated at the College since 1979, when women were first admitted to the College.

Katherine Grainger, Mr Paul Thompson and Anna WatkinsMr Paul Thompson MBE
(Hon LLD – Honorary Doctor of Laws) Friday 22nd January, press opportunity 4.45pm

Paul Thompson is the Chief Coach for the British Rowing international Women and Lightweights Squads. At London 2012 he coached the women's double scull of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins to Olympic gold and he was awarded the MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours list. At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games he coached the women's quadruple scull to a silver medal.

Paul joined the British Rowing coaching staff in 2001. In 2003 he coached Katherine Grainger and Catherine Bishop to a gold medal in the women’s pair at the World Rowing Championships in Milan and he was the Lead Coach for Women at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, leading the coaching team to produce three medal winning boats. After Athens Paul was promoted to ARA Chief Coach for Women and Lightweights. He has personally coached the women's quad since Athens winning gold at the 2005 Worlds in Gifu, and Silver in Japan in 2006 which was later were altered to gold when another crew was later disqualified. At the 2007 Worlds in Munich the quad won gold and Paul was awarded International Rowing Federation Coach of the Year.

Mr Brett Wigdortz OBE Mr Brett Wigdortz OBE (Hon LLD
Honorary Doctor of Laws)
Thursday 21 January, press opportunity 4.45pm 

Brett Wigdortz is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Teach First an educational charity that aims to break the link between low family income and poor educational attainment. He also currently serves as a trustee of the National College for Digital Skills and Future Leaders which recruits and trains the next generation of outstanding head teachers for challenging urban secondary schools. He is also co-founder and a trustee of Teach For All an organization created to help social entrepreneurs in other countries start similar programs and create a global network of social enterprises dedicated to addressing educational disadvantage.

In 2007 he was named the UK Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year, he received the 2011 CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) European Leadership Award, and he was also awarded "Charity Principal of the Year" at the Charity Times Awards 2012. He was awarded an OBE (Officer in the Order of the British Empire) for services to education in the 2013 New Year's Honours list.

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Policy, University of Warwick
Tel UK: 024 76523708 office 07767 655860 mobile
Tel Overseas: +44 (0)24 76523708 office +44 (0)7767 655860 mobile/cell

PR601 16th December 2015