Pendle alumnus James May among recipients of honorary degrees

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Top Gear presenter James May and well-known television broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell are two of the six people being awarded honorary degrees at Lancaster this year. Honorary degrees are awarded to those considered ‘distinguished in their field’ and most recipients have connections with the university or the North West region.

Probably the most well-known among the student population is James May, a Lancaster alumnus and former Pendle student who, legend has it, once covered the entire hallway of his flat with Union Jack toilet roll. He is now an award-winning television presenter and motoring journalist.

Dame Joan Bakewell was born in Stockport and is a television presenter, former Chair of the British Film Institute and writer for The Independent. Once dubbed ‘the thinking man’s crumpet,’ she was awarded the Stonewall award for ‘Journalist of the Year’ in 2009. Her nomination for the honorary degree is due to her work raising the profile of the age equality debate and related ‘ageist’ issues.

Preston-born Edwin Booth, another recipient, is the fifth generation head of local supermarket chain Booths’ which employs over 3000 people in 26 regional branches. He has sat alongside the Dean of Lancaster’s Management School and the Pro-Chancellor as Chair of Business on the ‘Seeing is Believing’ Alumni North West Board. A Prince of Wales’ ambassador for business in the north-west, his degree will be awarded in recognition of his huge success as a local businessman.

Professor Averil Mansfield is currently President of the British Medical Association and Fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. Born in Lancashire, Professor Mansfield has been recognised for her esteemed career which includes being the first ever female Professor of Surgery at St Mary’s Hospital of Imperial College London. Always keen to encourage women to enter the medical profession, she has in the past been invited to Lancaster’s School of Health and Medicine to talk to current medical students.

The final two recipients of 2010 also hail from the sciences. Professor Kang Shaozhong is a member of the Chinese Government Committee involved in writing the country’s five year agriculture plan. His research focuses upon effective water use and food security, and he currently has over 5000ha of experiments underway in conjunction with various food producers. Also the Director for Agricultural Water Research in China and a Distinguished Professor of Agriculture, Professor Shaozhong is recognised as a leader in his field both in China and on an international level.

Finally, Professor Lonnie Thompson has gained global recognition for his work in drilling and analysing ice cores. His achievements include winning the National Medal for Science, the United States’ highest scientific honour. As a paleoclimatologist and Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences, he has also won the world prize for Environmental Achievement, published 165 papers and featured in a Rolling Stone article entitled ‘The Ice Hunter’.

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