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Durham University to honour leading figures

Durham University is to recognise leading figures from the fields of diplomacy, music and local government with the award of honorary degrees this winter. 


Former UK ambassador to the USA Lord Kim Darroch and opera singer Dame Sarah Connolly will be among those honoured.


Dr Desra Percaya, the current Indonesian ambassador to the UK, and City of London Corporation Alderman Alison Gowman will also receive honorary degrees.


The first honorary degrees of 2024 will be presented during the University’s Winter Congregation ceremonies, to be held in the historic setting of Durham Cathedral, on 4 and 5 January. In full, they are:

County Durham-born singer Dame Sarah Connolly DBE, a celebrated mezzo-soprano, who will become a Doctor of Music.

The Lord Darroch of Kew and St Mawes KCMG (Kim Darroch), former National Security Adviser, UK Ambassador to the European Union and UK Ambassador to the USA who will become a Doctor of Letters. 

Alison Gowman, Alderman of the City of London Corporation and a Durham alumna, who will be made a Doctor of Civil Law. 

Dr Desra Percaya, Indonesian Ambassador to the UK and a Durham alumnus, who also becomes a Doctor of Civil Law.

January’s ceremonies will also mark the first conferral of honorary degrees by Durham University’s Chancellor, acclaimed international foreign policy expert Dr Fiona Hill.  


Other confirmed honorary degree recipients, who the University plans to recognise at future ceremonies, include County-Durham born television presenter Matt Baker, botanist and advocate for plant conservation Dr Margaret Bradshaw and renowned author and journalist Hunter Davies.


Future recipients will also include indigenous human rights advocate Dr Dalee Sambo Dorough, and Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, whose STEMettes social initiative has helped tens of thousands of girls realise their potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at Oxford University, and businessman James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson Group, will also be honoured.

Honorary recipients receive their degrees alongside thousands of the University’s students, drawn from more than 130 countries, as they officially graduate from the University, which holds ceremonies in both the winter and summer.

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, said: "Our honorary graduates are an exceptionally distinguished group of people who exemplify the highest levels of achievement in their spheres of activity. 

"The contributions they have made have improved, enriched and enhanced the lives of so many others and the world around them. They will rightly act as an inspiration to our students as they set out on their own paths into the world.

“We look forward to celebrating our honorary degree recipients alongside the achievements of our graduating students.” 


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