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Honorary Degrees

Academic Gowns and Robes hanging up

Honorary graduates exemplify the highest levels of achievement in their spheres of activity and reflect our inspirational Durham community.

Honorary awards are nominated by members of University staff and approved by our Senate. They are conferred at our Winter or Summer Congregation ceremonies when thousands of our students officially graduate from the University.

This celebration of our honorary graduates’ achievements acts as a great example to our students as they set out on their own paths into the world.

Explore the recipients of Durham University's Honorary Degrees and Awards for Summer Congregation 2024.

This year's recipients:

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Richard Ovenden, honorary Doctor of LettersRichard Ovenden - Doctor of Letters

Biography: Richard Ovenden is the 25th Bodley’s Librarian - the senior executive position at the Bodleian Libraries, and he also serves as Head of Gardens, Libraries and Museums at the University of Oxford.

After graduating from Durham, his career has taken in the Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh. Richard has published widely on the history of collecting and photography, on the library, archive, and information world, and the history of deliberate destruction of knowledge. His book ‘Burning the Books’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Wolfson History Prize.

Richard was awarded the OBE in 2019 for services to libraries and archives. Richard was made an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2023.

Richard was awarded a Doctor of Letters on 27 June.

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Dalee Sambo Dorough, honorary Doctor of Civil LawDalee Sambo Dorough - Doctor of Civil Law

Biography: Dr Dalee Sambo Dorough is a human rights advocate specialising in international relations, Alaska Native rights, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Dalee was part of the Alaska Tribal sovereignty movement for decades and the negotiations leading to the 2007 adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She has served on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues [2011 to 2016] and the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [2023-2026].

She was honoured with a Reebok Human Rights Award in 1988; the Bill Edmunds Award in 1989; and the International Arctic Science Committee Medal in 2022. She was one of the ten ‘Women of the Century’ selected as Alaska’s most influential women.

Dalee was awarded a Doctor of Civil Law on 28 June.

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Hunter Davies, honorary Doctor of LettersHunter Davies - Doctor of Letters

Biography: Hunter Davies is a renowned author, journalist and broadcaster. Formerly editor of the Sunday Times magazine, he has authored more than 100 published books, from novels and children's books to football, travel and biographies, including the only authorised biography of The Beatles.

Hunter attained his bachelor’s degree and a diploma in teaching from Durham University. During his time as a student at Durham, he was editor of the student newspaper, Palatinate, and Senior Man of University College.

Hunter is an avid football fan and his autobiography ‘The Beatles, Football and Me’ was published in 2007.  His memoir, The Co-op's Got Bananas, gives a warm recollection of his time as a Durham University student.

Hunter was awarded a Doctor of Letters on 1 July.

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Dr Margaret Bradshaw, honorary Doctor of ScienceMargaret Bradshaw - Doctor of Science

Biography: Margaret Bradshaw is a tireless advocate for the conservation of unique plant life, a world-expert botanist and an enthusiastic teacher.

Born in 1926, Margaret worked as a teacher before she began studying and mapping the rare Lady’s Mantle plant species in Teesdale and Weardale, County Durham, achieving a PhD from Durham University in 1959. Since then, she has constantly advocated for conservation of the unique flora of Teesdale and her first book, Teesdale's Special Flora: Places, Plants and People, was published in 2023.

Her early works, and those of her PhD students, remain the foundation for change measurement in Teesdale to the present-day.

Margaret was awarded a Doctor of Science on 2 July.

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Anne-Marie Imafidon, honorary Doctor of ScienceAnne-Marie Imafidon - Doctor of Science

Biography: Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE is co-founder of Stemettes, an award-winning social initiative which has helped tens of thousands of girls, young women and non-binary young people realise their potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Anne-Marie was just 20 when she received a Master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford. Her passion for learning and inspiring others has also seen her become an author, podcaster and, temporarily, the Arithmetician on Channel 4’s Countdown.

She holds several education roles, including sitting on Durham University’s Computer Science Advisory Board. Durham’s alumni-funded Anne-Marie Imafidon Scholarships for Women in Technology are named in her honour.

Anne-Marie was awarded a Doctor of Science on 3 July.

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James Timpson, honorary Doctor of ScienceJames Timpson - Doctor of Science

Biography: James Timpson has been Chief Executive of Timpson Group since 2002, helping the business grow to over 2,100 retail stores.

A Durham University graduate, he has continued the company’s culture of trust and kindness where everyone at Timpson is equal. James is passionate about the employment of formerly imprisoned people and established the Timpson Foundation to support the recruitment of marginalised groups within society. He has been Chair of the Prison Reform Trust since 2016.

James received an OBE in 2011 for the training and employment of disadvantaged people.  Timpson Group is now one of the UK’s largest employers of ex-offenders.

James was awarded a Doctor of Science on 3 July.

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Congregation is an annual event at Durham. The ceremonies allow our students to celebrate all they have achieved in their time at university, not only academic, but social and pastoral too.