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Honorary Graduand Biographies - Winter 2014

Wednesday, 22 January 2014
11.00am: Dr John Hood, Hon LLD

3.00pm: Dr Kevin Finnan MBE, Hon DLitt
Thursday, 23 January 2014
11.00am: Professor Oliver Sacks, Hon DSc
3.00pm: Professor George Loewenstein, Hon DSc


Friday, 24 January 2014
11.00am: Sir Vernon Ellis, Hon LLD
3.00pm: Lord Michael Whitby, Hon LLD (in absentia)


Dr John Hood, Hon LLD

Dr Hood is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Robertson Foundation and Chair of the Rhodes Trust. He also serves as a director on the Board of BG Group, plc; and as Chairman of Urenco Limited, Matakina Limited, and of Study Group Limited. In January 2014, Dr Hood will join the Board of WPP plc.

In addition to these appointments, Dr Hood serves on the Boards of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, the Kawharu Foundation, and the Said Business School Foundation; he also serves on Advisory Boards for Lund University, Singapore Management University, the African Leadership Academy and the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division.

From 2004 to 2009, Dr Hood served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. He served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland from 1999 to 2004.

Dr Hood earned a Bachelor of Engineering and a PhD in Civil Engineering from The University of Auckland. Upon completing his doctorate, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford. There he read for an MPhil in Management Studies and was a member of Worcester College.

Dr Kevin Finnan MBE: Hon DLitt

As Motionhouse's Artistic Director Kevin has created, either alone or in collaboration with Executive Director Louise Richards, each of Motionhouse major touring productions. This includes all of Motionhouse's theatre productions as well as a series of shorter festival pieces and large-scale outdoor spectacles.

Kevin is passionate about exploring and exploding the traditional use of space in performance and has a history of creating extraordinary dance spectacles including the acclaimed Machine Dance for JCB diggers and dancers. In 2012 he was Choreographer and Movement Director for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. That same year he created The Voyage for the London 2012 Festival – an enormous outdoor performance event performed on a life size ship in the centre of Birmingham and made in collaboration with Legs On The Wall from Australia.

Kevin has created bespoke performance events to celebrate cultural capital celebrations in Copenhagen and Marseille-Provence and has also been commissioned to make-work for numerous other companies in the UK and further afield.

Committed to collaboration, Kevin has worked with artists from many disciplines including writer A.L.Kennedy, installation artist Rosa Sanchez, film-makers Logela Multimedia, set visionary Simon Dormon and international companies such as Legs On The Wall and Vancouver’s Headlines Theatre.

Kevin has an MA in Contemporary Performing Arts from University College Bretton Hall and a PhD in Theatre from Warwick University. He is also a visiting Fellow at the University of Warwick and Associate Artist of Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. He was awarded an MBE for services to Dance in 2013.

Professor Oliver Sacks: Hon DSc

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London, into a family of physicians, scientists and teachers. He earned his medical degree at The Queen’s College, Oxford University, and in 1961 moved to California for his medical residencies and fellowship work. Since 1965, he has lived in New York, where he recently became a Professor of Neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. The University of Warwick has many close ties with NYU, and with the encouragement of David and Susie Sainsbury, Dr. Sacks has become a Visiting Professor at Warwick. We are delighted to welcome him on his first visit in this new capacity.

In 1966, Dr. Sacks began working at a chronic care hospital in the Bronx where he encountered an extraordinary group of patients, many of whom had spent decades in strange, frozen states, like human statues, unable to initiate movement. He recognized these patients as survivors of the great pandemic of encephalitis lethargica, the long-forgotten "sleepy sickness" that had swept the world from 1916 to 1927, and he treated them with a then-experimental drug, L-dopa, which enabled them to come back to life. They became the subjects of his book Awakenings, which later inspired a play by Harold Pinter (“A Kind of Alaska”) and the Oscar-nominated feature film (“Awakenings”) with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

The New York Times has referred to Dr. Sacks as “the poet laureate of medicine,” because he sees and practices medicine not only as a science but as an art, and because his work has given voice to many people normally overlooked by society. In books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, Sacks describes patients struggling to live with conditions ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to autism, parkinsonism, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, retardation, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sacks's books and essays have deeply influenced our understanding of human illness and the ways in which we adapt to illness as patients, the ways we care for those who are neurologically challenged, and the fundamental ways in which illness affects our identity as individuals or communities.

His work has not only inspired countless young people to embark on careers in medicine and health care; it has inspired and fertilized the work of a wide array of scientists working in subjects ranging from the mechanics of visual and auditory perception to the workings of memory and consciousness itself. Sacks’s work has also permeated the culture at large, so that people now speak of “Oliver Sacks-like conditions” when they mean something odd and interesting that requires our compassion and understanding—or that sheds light on the ways in which the human brain functions and adapts and shapes our world. Even people who have not read any of his books are likely to have heard of his ideas—either on the radio, television, or internet, or in one of the many artistic adaptations that have been made of his work. Some of our leading artists and writers, including Harold Pinter, Peter Brook, and Brian Friel, have been inspired to adapt Sacks’s work for the stage.

His newest book, Hallucinations, has received marvellous reviews from Hilary Mantel and many others. Will Self, writing in the Guardian, calls the book “the keystone of the amazing edifice that is this remarkable thinker’s oeuvre, a body of work that sets out to do nothing more or less than examine the totality of human being from the perspective of neurology.”

Professor George Loewenstein: Hon DSc

George Loewenstein is the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his PhD from Yale University in 1985 and since then has held academic positions at The University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University, and fellowships at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, The Russell Sage Foundation and The Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. He is one of the founders of the field of behavioral economics and more recently of the field of neuroeconomics. He is past president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Loewenstein's research focuses on applications of psychology to economics, and his specific interests include decision making over time, bargaining and negotiations, psychology and health, law and economics, the psychology of adaptation, the role of emotion in decision making, the psychology of curiosity, conflict of interest, and "out of control" behaviors such as impulsive violent crime and drug addiction. He has published over 200 journal articles and book chapters, and has written or edited 6 books on topics ranging from intertemporal choice to behavioral economics to emotions.

Sir Vernon Ellis: Hon LLD

Vernon Ellis is Chair of the British Council. Since taking the Chair in 2010, he has led the Board and management through an extensive reframing of the strategy and organisation structure.

He has a background in both business and the arts.

Prior to early 2010, he spent all his working life at Accenture in a number of major operational roles overseeing a period of extraordinary growth. From 2000, he was International Chairman with a focus on geographic strategy, the transition to a public company and external relations. Inter alia, he led the global Corporate Citizenship Activities through its pro bono, volunteering and Foundations giving activities. He was also the founder Chairman of Accenture Development Partnerships as well as leading Accenture’s activities with the World Economic Forum at Davos.

He is Chairman of Martin Randall Travel and of One Medicare, a company providing primary health care services to the NHS. He is a non-executive Director of FTI Consulting Inc.

He is President of English National Opera, having been Chairman from 2006-12, was for 6 years a Trustee of the Royal College of Music and is currently Chair of the National Opera Studio. Through his Foundation he supports a wide range of arts organisations and he also organises around 60 concerts a year at his home in London. He has a growing interest and involvement in organisations bringing music experience to schools.

He was knighted in 2011 for services to music and in 2012 was appointed Chairman of the Arts and Media Honours Committee and a member of the overall Honours Committee and the Philanthropy Committee.

Lord Michael Whitby: Hon LLD (in absentia)

Born in Birmingham, Lord Michael Whitby has been active in politics since 1979 when he joined the Conservative Party. Lord Whitby has been a Conservative Councillor for Harborne since 1997, became the Leader of Birmingham City Council in 2004 and led the city in a progressive partnership with the Liberal Democrats until 2012 - he is, in fact, the second longest-serving Leader in the Council’s history.

During his time as Leader, he was committed to taking Birmingham on a “journey towards excellence”, which transformed the City and the City Council from one that was “failing” to one whose services were described as good or excellent, against a backdrop of low taxation and record satisfaction levels.

Lord Whitby has also been synonymous with transformational infrastructure developments (including the £600m New Street Station development, and £188m investment into the new Library of Birmingham), award-winning master-planning (through the ‘Big City Plan’), an ambitious new international strategy (creating new economic links with China, the Middle East and India) and the transformation of Birmingham’s brand and reputation. As a result, the city now attracts more inward investment than any other region in the UK outside of London.

Lord Whitby also played the major strategic role in successfully bringing the Jamaican and USA Athletic teams to Birmingham to train for the London Olympics 2012

As part of his wider regional responsibilities Lord Whitby was Chairman of Birmingham Science Park, President of Marketing Birmingham and was a key figure in the creation of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.

Outside of politics, Lord Whitby is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and is currently Chairman and Managing Director of Skeldings, an established 105 year old local engineering company, which was the winner of the Birmingham Post Business Award in June 2001.

Lord Whitby received an Honorary Doctorate from Aston University in July 2012.

Cllr. Mike Whitby DSc (Hon), FIoD was elevated to the House of Lords on the 16th October 2013.