Students Staff

04 May 2010

Essex announces Honorary Graduands

Griff Rhys Jones

The University of Essex will be awarding honorary degrees to a number of respected figures at graduation ceremonies in July.

Award-winning comedian, actor, writer, director and producer, Griff Rhys Jones will be honoured, alongside Essex graduates, John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons; Lord Triesman, Chairman of the Football Association; and Hanif Lalani OBE, former Chief Executive of BT Global Services. They will be joined by Dr Katherine Rake, Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute.

Rt Hon John Bercow MP is an Essex graduate and Speaker of the House of Commons.

After graduating from Essex in 1985, Mr Bercow was elected National Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students before being appointed Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Collegiate Forum to head the campaign for student support in the run-up to the 1987 General Election.

He became a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth in 1986 and was deputy leader of the Conservative Opposition Group - at the time making him the youngest deputy group leader in the country.

A Member of Parliament since 1997, Mr Bercow has worked across a range of areas including education and employment, home affairs, work and pensions, and international development. Awarded ‘Backbencher to Watch’ in The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards in 1998, Mr Bercow was named Opposition MP of the Year 2005 in the Channel Four/Hansard Society Political Awards following a ballot of parliamentary colleagues.

Mr Bercow was elected Speaker in June 2009. Since his appointment, he has supported calls for reform of the Commons and to increase public engagement with Parliament in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Hanif Lalani OBE, an Essex graduate, has enjoyed a successful career with telecommunications giant BT. He stepped down earlier this year as Chief Executive of BT Global Services.

Born in Uganda, Mr Lalani graduated from the University in 1983 and took up a post with BT. Over the next 26 years he worked his way around the business in a variety of finance and management roles in the group’s UK and international divisions. Between 1998 and 2002, he worked in Northern Ireland first as Finance Director of BT Northern Ireland, and then within a year he was promoted to Chief Executive. He returned to London in September 2002 where he took up the post of Chief Financial Officer at BT Wholesale and in January 2003 was awarded the OBE for services to business in Northern Ireland.

He was appointed group finance director in February 2005 when he joined both the Board and the Operating Committee and was appointed Chief Executive of BT Global Services in 2008.

Dr Katherine Rake OBE has been described as ‘one of the country’s most prominent feminist voices.’ Currently Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, Dr Rake has worked to influence change and public debate nationally and to inform policymaking right across government.

Before joining the Institute in 2009, Dr Rake spent seven years as Director of the UK’s leading campaigning organisation for women’s rights, the Fawcett Society. Here she campaigned for equal pay, fair political representation and better treatment within the justice system. Dr Rake also fought to put an end to sexism in the city, pregnancy discrimination and the prejudices faced by women from ethnic minorities.

Prior to her role at the Fawcett Society, Dr Rake lectured in social policy at the London School of Economics; then seconded to the Women's Unit in the Cabinet Office, and was Director of Studies at the Institut de Gestion Sociale in Paris. A regular broadcaster and contributor to the media, she was awarded an OBE for services to equal opportunities and was shortlisted for the 2009 Women in Public Life Awards.

Griff Rhys Jones is an award-winning comedian, actor, writer, director and producer.

Educated at Brentwood School, Essex and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, his career began as a trainee radio producer at the BBC. Mr Rhys Jones first came to prominence when he joined the Not The Nine O’Clock News team where he met Mel Smith. Together he and Mel formed one of the country’s most successful comedy partnerships with several television series throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Their partnership also founded one of the UK’s leading production companies, Talkback Productions.

Mr Rhys Jones has worked extensively in the theatre, most recently in the West End production of Oliver!, and as a television presenter.

In addition to his charitable work, Mr Rhys Jones has interests in conservation and town planning. In 2008 he was appointed President of the Civic Trust and was instrumental in the foundation of the Civic Society Initiative which replaced the Trust in 2009. He has spoken widely about the need for civic societies to champion the opinions of local people as their built environments undergo change.

Lord Triesman of Tottenham is an Essex graduate and Chairman of the Football Association (FA), the governing body of football in England.

Following his days as a student radical at Essex and a career in academia, Lord Triesman took up a post at the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) in 1984. In 1993 he became General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers before being appointed General Secretary of the Labour Party in 2001. Made a Life Peer in 2004, Lord Triesman moved into government, initially as a Whip and then at the Foreign Office before being appointed the first Minister for Students at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Appointed as the first independent Chairman of the FA in 2008, Lord Triesman has played an integral role in the bid to bring the 2018 Football World Cup to England. A keen football fan and former grassroots player, coach and referee, he is Patron of the Tottenham Hotspur Charitable Foundation which undertakes a range of community and education projects throughout North London and in Africa.

Notes to editors
The University’s Graduation ceremonies will take place at the Colchester Campus on 21, 22 and 23 July 2010.

For more information, or photographs, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone 01206 872807, e-mail

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