Students Staff

13 May 2014

Honorary Graduands announced

Description of picture for alt text

Martha Lane Fox.

Digital entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox and historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill, who was key to the uncovering of the lost remains of King Richard III, are among the seven people to be presented with Honorary Degrees at this year’s Graduation at the University.

The group of distinguished individuals, which also includes Oscar-winning film director Dr Jan Pinkava, will join more than 3,000 students and over 7,000 guests for this year’s celebration, which takes place from 15-18 July 2014 and will be the biggest Graduation at Essex to date.

This year’s Honorary Graduands are:

Historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill was instrumental in one of the most exciting British archaeological projects of recent times – uncovering and identifying the lost remains of King Richard III.

Dr Ashdown-Hill was the leader of genealogical research and historical adviser on the Looking for Richard Project, which led to the rediscovery of the remains of Richard III in August 2012 under a car park in Leicester.

It was his nine years’ extensive research on Richard III’s burial and the subsequent fate of his gravesite, together with his study of the layout of medieval Friaries, and his discovery of Richard III’s mtDNA sequence by tracking down a living all female line descendant of Richard’s mother, which led to the University of Leicester Archaeological Services being commissioned to explore the gravesite, and to the subsequent confirmation that the remains found were King Richard.

An Essex alumnus, after a first degree in history and French from the University of East Anglia, Dr Ashdown-Hill gained an MA in Applied Linguistics in 1981 and a PhD in History in 2008. A former language teacher, for the past two decades he has concentrated his work on being a freelance historian, with particular expertise on fifteenth-century England.

Lord Currie of Marylebone made an outstanding contribution to the University of Essex in his role as Chair and member of University Council.

Lord Currie brought a wealth of experience to the role of Chair from his work in business, as an academic and as a Government adviser. He is Chairman of the new UK competition authority, the Competition and Markets Authority, and also a member of the Governing Body of the Institute for Government and a member of the Board of the Dubai Financial Services Authority.  He was founding Chairman of Ofcom, an assessor on the Leveson Inquiry, he conducted a major review of defence procurement. After Ofcom, he sat on the boards of a range of companies, including Royal Mail, until his appointment as Chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority. He also sits on the cross benches in the House of Lords.

He stepped down from University Council duties in December 2013 after being appointed as the Chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority.

During his time as Chair, Lord Currie has seen the University develop a new strategic plan for 2013-19 and complete several strategic capital projects including The Forum Southend-on-Sea, Wivenhoe House and The Meadows student accommodation.

John Elkington is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. He is a Founding Partner and Executive Chairman of Volans, a future-focused business driving market-based solutions to the future’s greatest challenges. He was also co-founder of Environmental Data Services (ENDS) in 1978 and SustainAbility in 1987.

An Essex alumnus, Mr Elkington gained a BA in Sociology and Social Psychology in 1970, and an M Phil in Urban and Regional Planning from University College London in 1974.

Described by Business Week in 2004 as "a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades", Mr Elkington coined such terms as “environmental excellence”, “green consumer”, the “triple bottom line”, and “People, Planet & Profit”. In 2009, a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) International survey of the Top 100 CSR leaders placed Mr Elkington fourth - after Al Gore, Barack Obama and the late Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, and alongside Muhammad Yunus.

He has written or co-authored 18 books, including the million-selling Green Consumer Guide and Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, which brought his triple bottom line concept of profit, social and environmental concerns to a wider audience.

Martha Lane Fox co-founded Europe’s largest travel and leisure website with Brent Hoberman in 1998, they took it public in 2000 and sold it in 2005.

Martha was appointed a crossbench peer in the House of Lords in March 2013. She is currently chair of Go On UK, a coalition of public and private sector partners that are helping millions more people and organisations online.

In March 2014 she was appointed Chancellor of the Open University. Martha co-founded and chairs LuckyVoice, revolutionising the karaoke industry. She chairs MakieLab and Founders Forum for Good. She is a non-executive director at Marks & Spencer and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

In 2007 Martha founded her own charitable foundation and also serves as a Patron of AbilityNet, Reprieve, Camfed and Just for Kids Law. In 2013 Martha was awarded a CBE.

Dr Jan Pinkava is an Oscar-winning film director who made important contributions at Pixar Animation Studios from 1993 to 2006 and has recently pioneered new techniques in interactive storytelling at Google.
Escaping communism after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, his family settled in Colchester, where he developed an interest in animation; garnering national recognition for his amateur films while still attending the Colchester Royal Grammar School.

After studying Computer Science at university, and postgraduate research in Robotics, Dr Pinkava returned to animation as a profession, eventually joining Pixar as a director in 1993. He received the 1997 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Geri’s Game, the first Pixar film to feature a human main character. After working on several of the studio’s films he was invited to develop an original feature and created Ratatouille, which went on to earn him a second Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

He has always been a keen sculptor and the University of Essex is the proud custodian of one of Dr Pinkava’s youthful works: Big Cat.

Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury is the first ever female Speaker of Jatiyo Sangshad (Bangladesh Parliament), the supreme legislative body of Bangladesh.

Having gained a prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship, Dr Chaudhury graduated from the University of Essex in 2000 with a PhD in Constitutional Law and Human Rights. She held a distinguished legal career for 15 years at the Supreme Court, where she worked on many human rights cases involving constitutional issues.

Before taking up the post of Speaker, Dr Chaudhury served as State Minister for Women and Children Affairs which saw her involved in efforts to tackle violence against women, including the finalisation of a law on domestic violence.

Dr Chaudhury was awarded Asia Society’s Humanitarian Service Award in 2010 in recognition of leadership in advocating the elimination of violence against women and supporting women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.

Professor Colin Riordan was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex for five years until he took up the post of President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University in 2012.

Professor Riordan spearheaded the University’s £200 million-plus capital investment programme, its success in maintaining its position among the UK’s top ten research institutions and its international strategic agenda.

He joined Essex in 2007 from Newcastle University, where he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

He is currently Vice-President and Board member of Universities UK, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, the Edge Foundation, UCAS and the Equality Challenge Unit.

In 2013 he became chair of Higher Education Wales. As chair of the International Policy Network of Universities UK, he is active in promoting the role of UK universities aboard. He is also chair of the UK Higher Education International Unit and is a member of the International Education Council.


Note to Editors

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email


...more news releases