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Honorary Graduand Biographies - Winter 2016

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

11.00am: Mr Michael John Harrison, Hon DLitt

3.00pm: Rev Richard Coles, Hon DLitt

Mr Michael John Harrison: Hon DLitt

Author and critic Michael John Harrison (known primarily by his pen name, M John Harrison) is widely considered to be one of the leading stylists in modern fantasy and science fiction. He has been described in The Guardian as a 'genre contrarian'.

Born in Rugby in 1945, Michael was introduced to George Bernard Shaw while at school, and immediately became 'hooked on polemic'. His first short story was published in 1966 by Kyril Bonfilioli at Science Fantasy magazine, on the strength of which he moved to London. There, he began writing reviews and short fiction for New Worlds, the UK's leading science fiction magazine, and by 1968 he was appointed books editor.

His wide-ranging work includes science fiction such as post-apocalyptic The Committed Men and the award­winning Kefahuchi Tract trilogy, horror The Course of the Heart, fantasy/Sci-Fi crossovers such as the award­nominated Viriconium novels and short stories, and even cats (he co-wrote four linked fantasies about cats with Jane Johnson, under the pseudonym Gabriel King).

Michael's interest in rock climbing led to his semi­autobiographical novel Climbers (1989), the first novel to receive the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. He 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 non-fiction 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.

Rev Richard Coles: Hon DLitt

The Reverend Richard Coles is a musician, writer, broadcaster and Church of England minister. He grew up in Kettering, Northamptonshire, and attended Wellingborough School, where he was a choirboy. He later studied at the Department of Drama and the Liberal Arts at South Warwickshire College of Further Education in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Richard is accomplished on saxophone, clarinet and keyboards and began his career in 1980 as a London theatre musician. In 1983 he joined pop group Bronski Beat before he and lead singer Jimmy Somerville went on to form The Communards. Their musical partnership led to three top ten chart hits including the best-selling single of 1986, a club/dance version of Don't Leave Me This Way which spent four weeks at number one.

In 1990, Richard's life took a profound change in direction, leaving pop stardom behind him to pursue a theology degree from King's College, London. He was later awarded an MA by research from the University of Leeds for his work on the Greek text of the Epistle to the Ephesians. He trained for priesthood in West Yorkshire and was ordained in 2005.

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. ln January 2011, Richard 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 in the BBC Two sitcom Rev, and was an adviser to the show.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

11.00am: Professor Margaret Snowling, Hon DSc

3.00pm: Mr Brett Wigdortz, Hon LLD

Professor Margaret Snowling: Hon DSc

Professor Margaret Snowling is currently President of St John's College, University

of Oxford, and Head of the University's Centre for Reading and Language. She is a British Clinical Psychologist, and completed her first degree in Psychology at Bristol, followed by a PhD at University College London (UCL).

Best knownfor her work in dyslexia, Professor Snowling's research focuses on children's language and learning, focusing onthe nature and causes of children's reading difficulties and how best to ameliorate them. She joined the National Hospital's College of Speech Sciences in 1989, before moving to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to become Head of the Department of Psychology. She subsequently joined the University of York, where she Co-Directed the University of York's Centre for Reading and Language, prior to joining the University of Oxford in 2012.

She is Part-President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading and a Joint Editor of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. She served as a member of Sir Jim Rose's Expert Advisory Group on provision for dyslexia in 2009 and as an expert member ofthe Education for All: Fast Track Initiative Group in Washington DC in 2011.

Professor Snowling is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and her contributions to the study of dyslexia have been recognised with the Lady Radnor Prize of Dyslexia Actionin 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.

Mr Brett Wigdortz: Hon LLD

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.

Originally from New Jersey, Brett has a degree in Economics and International Studies from the University of Richmond and a Master's degree in Economics from the University of Hawaii. He worked as a researcher at the East-West Centre in Honolulu, and as a journalist in Indonesia and Hong Kong, before developing South Asia policy and business programmes at the Asia Society, New York. In 2000, Brett joined McKinsey & Company as a management consultant for Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

He then transferred to McKinsey's London office to take on a project seeking to improve poor exam results in the inner city. lt was during this project that he wrote the original business plan for Teach First, which he has led since its launch in 2002. Teach First has since supported over 6,000 individuals to work towards raising the achievements, aspirations and opportunities of pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds across the UK. The charity works with over 1,000 schools, 14 universities, over 40 corporate supporters and many other organisations.

Brett is a trustee of the National College for Digital Skills and Future Leaders which recruits and trains outstanding headteachers for challenging urban secondary schools. He is also co-founder and a trustee of Teach For All, which helps social entrepreneurs in other countries start similar programmes and create a global network dedicated to addressing educational disadvantage.

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

Friday, 22 January 2016

11.00am: Professor Gerald Martin, Hon DLitt

3.00pm: Mr Paul Thompson, Hon LLD


Professor Gerald Martin: Hon DLitt

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, and was translated into more than 20 languages. He taught for many years at The University of Portsmouth, where he helped to organise the world’s first undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies, which pioneered the student year abroad in Latin America. He worked for 25 years as the only English-speaking member of the Colección Archivos in Paris and in Pittsburgh became President of the International Institute of Ibero-American Literature. 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.

Mr Paul Thompson: Hon LLD

Paul Thompson is the Chief Coach for the British Rowing International Women and Lightweights Squads. Born in Canberra, Australia in 1964, Paul became an Australian rowing champion, representing his country at the World Junior and under-23 Rowing Championships, the World Student Games and other international regattas.

He graduated from the University of Canberra with a degree in Applied Science in Health Education and began his coaching career in 1988. He coached the 1996 Australian women's pair to an Olympic gold medal – Australia's first for a women's boat. He followed this with a silver in the same class at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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 altered to gold when another crew was disqualified. At the 2007 Worlds in Munich, the quad won gold and Paul was awarded International Rowing Federation Coach of the Year. At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games he coached the women's quadruple scull to a silver medal.

At London 2012 he coached the women's double scull of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins to Olympic gold. Paul was awarded the MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours list.