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UEA to honour notable alumni at its 50th anniversary graduation

Tue, 21 May 2013

The actor who starred as Gimli in Lord of the Rings is set to join a new 'fellowship' this summer when he receives an honorary degree from UEA.

John Rhys Davies who played Gimli the dwarf in the hugely successful film franchise is one of 17 well-known former University of East Anglia students who will be honoured at graduation ceremonies this year from July 16 to 19.

Pirates of the Caribbean actor Jack Davenport and Bend it Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha are also amongst those receiving degrees to mark the 50th anniversary of UEA.

Brian Summers UEA Registrar and Secretary said: “Each year we present honorary degrees to those who have made outstanding contributions in the arts science sport and civil society.

“To celebrate this significant year in the university’s history we have chosen to recognise distinguished individuals who have studied at UEA in the past and we’re delighted that they will join our graduation ceremonies in the summer.”


John Rhys-Davies is an internationally acclaimed film television and stage actor best known for his roles as Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark and as Gimli a dwarf who travelled with eight other members of a fellowship on a quest to destroy the ring of power in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

One of UEA's first cohort of 87 students in 1963 John (then known as HJ Davies) was founder and first president of the University Dramatic Society posting the first ever student proposal on the common room notice board.

John said: "This honours not only me but also the outstanding 60 schoolgirls and 27 schoolboys of that first 1963 intake. We pretty much burned ourselves out laying the foundations for what is now recognised as the No.1 university for student experience.

"I confess I spent most of my time doing anything but course work. Sport politics acting - especially at the Maddermarket - and working as a bouncer at a big eating-place called Purdy's. I hope to see some of my old friends and students when I visit."

After graduating with a degree in English Studies John taught at Watton County Secondary Modern School before being awarded a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Following two years at RADA he spent nine years in repertory theatre with stints at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

John's popular television appearances include Budgie I Claudius The Naked Civil Servant Emmy Award-nominated Shogun and Sliders. His younger fans cherish his Man-Ray in Sponge Bob and the scheming Viscount Mowbray in The Princess Diaries 2.


Jack Davenport is most recognised for his notable acting roles including Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and Steve in hit TV series Coupling.

The son of actors Nigel Davenport and Maria Aitken Jack studied Film Studies and English Literature at UEA from 1992.

He has also starred in BBC Television's This Life recent American Network dramas Swingtown FlashForward and Smash as well as films including The Talented Mr Ripley and The Libertine.

In the theatre he has appeared in the West End and all over the UK and was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance in The Servant at the Lyric Hammersmith. He is currently filming Breathless a major new drama for ITV.

Jack is being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Razia Iqbal a journalist known for her roles at BBC News as arts news and special correspondent graduated from UEA with a degree in American Studies in 1985. Razia is currently one of the main presenters of Newshour on BBC World Service radio and presents Talking Books on BBC World TV. She has also presented Front Row and Woman’s Hour on Radio 4.

She receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Philip Mould is an international art dealer established author and broadcaster and is one of the country’s leading authorities on British portrait painting.

His BBC1 series Fake or Fortune? is the most watched arts programme on television. He is known for numerous key art discoveries including five lost paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Anthony Van Dyck.

Philip was the first student to organise an exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre at UEA when studying Art History from 1978.

He receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Tracy Chevalier is a novelist perhaps best-known for Girl With a Pearl Earring. Based on the famous Dutch painting the novel has sold over 4 million copies worldwide and was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

Raised in Washington DC Tracy has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and has lived in London for almost 30 years. She has been Chair of the Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Tracy receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Best known for directing Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice Gurinder Chadha originally worked for the BBC as a radio reporter before moving into television and in 1993 to film production.

Gurinder who was born in Nairobi and raised in London joined the UEA’s School of International Development in 1979 also making time for the social committee.

She said: “I had a fine time on the social committee at UEA which basically meant I made sandwiches for the bands that came there. Some were quite unknown at the time like U2!”

She receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Karen Jones is the co-founder of successful restaurant chain Café Rouge. She is the founder and current chairman of Food and Fuel Ltd and holds non-executive directorships with a number of household name businesses including online fashion retailer ASOS and Booker plc.

In 2006 Karen was awarded a CBE for her services to the hospitality industry.

Karen who came to UEA in 1975 to study English and American Studies with a year at Wellesley College near Boston USA is awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.

She said: “I loved UEA from first to last. The academic life was hugely engaging and the social side of things gave me some of my best friends. And working in Tatlers restaurant in Norwich confirmed my love of the hospitality industry. Happy 50th birthday UEA – it seems you continue to make your students very happy too.”


Joe Greenwell has had an extensive career in the automotive industry since first joining Austin Morris as a graduate trainee in 1973 after completing a BA in English and American Literature degree at UEA.

He retired from Ford Motor Company in April having most recently served as chairman of Ford of Britain and formerly as chairman and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. Joe offers an annual scholarship worth £2500 for one UEA American Studies student on their year abroad. He was awarded the CBE for services to the automotive industry in the Queen's birthday honours list in 2011.

Joe will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Colin Callender a UEA graduate in 1973 has had a successful career as an award winning film television and theatre producer and executive both in the UK and US since becoming a stage manager at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

Colin started his television career at Granada TV and later founded Primetime Television winning an Emmy for his television adaptation of the RSC’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby before becoming the president of HBO Films in the US. Colin has had a huge influence on TV and film. This was recognised when he was awarded a CBE in 2003.

Colin is currently the executive producer of BBC’s The White Queen and the producer of Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy starring Tom Hanks on Broadway. He sits on the board of New York arts charity The Creative Coalition is a Trustee of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an Honorary Council member of the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre.

He receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


A distinguished portfolio manager who started his career as a property analyst in London Nigel Hart is now Managing Director of BlackRock a multinational investment management company based in New York.

A UEA graduate in 1989 Nigel is also an active philanthropist sponsoring major music concerts and benefits for causes including family medical centres in the US. He recently gave a lecture in the Contemporary Issues in Economics series at UEA.

Nigel receives an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Prof Dennis Brown is a cell biologist/physiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital and received his PhD from UEA’s School of Biology in 1975.

Dennis is an internationally recognized authority on protein trafficking in cells and his work is aimed at understanding basic cell physiology to develop possible new treatments for kidney disease and male infertility. He has published over 350 articles in peer reviewed journals.

He has received numerous awards for his research was editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Physiology (Cell Physiology) until July 2008 and is currently the editor-in-chief of Physiological Reviews. In 2011 he was elected to serve on the National Council of the American Physiological Society (APS) and he is the chair of a National Institutes of Health grant review committee.

Dennis receives an Honorary Doctorate of Science.


Prof Jack Lohman who received an honours degree in History of Art from UEA in 1979 has held a number of influential positions leading various museums around the world including being appointed director of the Museum of London in 2002.

Currently CEO of the Royal BC Museum in Canada and chairman of the National Museum in Warsaw Poland Jack has also worked with English Heritage to develop museums and has been director of an award-winning film production company.

He receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at the leading national trade union law firm Thompsons Solicitors.

After graduating in law in 1983 Vicky became the first woman president of the UEA students’ union and went on to become national president of the National Union of Students and national women’s officer of the Labour Party. She remains active in campaigning for women’s rights.

She has been responsible for several landmark cases and has pursued appeals on behalf of clients to the European Court of Justice the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court. These have included ASLEF v UK which established the right of trade unions to choose their own members and exclude members of the British National Party and Stringer and othersv HMRC which gave workers the right to take paid statutory holidays when on long-term sick leave.

In 2012 Vicky was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General to join the UN Internal Justice Council which oversees employment relations within the UN.

She receives an Honorary Doctorate of Law.


A former publisher and literary agent Martin Pick graduated from UEA in sociology and economic history in 1967.

Since then over 45 years he worked as an educational and children's book publisher television producer and literary agent in India and Pakistan as well as the UK.

In 2001 Martin established the annual Charles Pick Fellowship in memory of his father a publisher and literary agent to provide six months living on campus and a bursary for an unpublished writer. This has attracted young writers from all over the world and this year there will be two from India.

Martin also proposed and has been instrumental in planning the current programme of writing workshops in India under Professor Amit Chaudhuri.

In 2012 Martin donated his father's papers to UEA to form the Charles Pick Archive. Martin receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.'


Ayaz Ebrahim is chief investment officer for Asia at Amundi Asset Management in Hong Kong. Amundi is the 9th largest Asset Management Company globally with over US$900 billion assets under management. After graduating from UEA in Accounting and Finance in 1985 Ayaz began his career in PricewaterhouseCoopers in London.

He has had a prestigious career spanning three decades and a number of senior positions at organisations including HSBC and Deutsche Bank.

Ayaz will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Mark Williams is a partner at Deloitte one of the big four international accounting firms specialising in expatriate tax.

He has worked in the accounting industry for over 25 years after attending UEA from 1981 and is a long-time supporter of the university. Mark currently supports two scholarships: one for an undergraduate student studying Accounting and Finance and one for a post-graduate student studying on a taught masters programme in the School of History.

He receives an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Dr David Acheson is known for his influential work in spreading the importance of mathematics to schools and the more general public. As well as writing a best-selling popular book on the topic David has recently been president of the Mathematical Association.

He completed a PhD at UEA in 1971 and receives an Honorary Doctorate of Science.