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Sir Peter Hall in procession to the Abbey
Sir Peter Hall in procession to the Abbey
Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall
The ceremony
The ceremony
Sir David Varney
Sir David Varney
Photos by Nic Delves-Broughton

Internal News - 05 July 2006

Sir Peter Hall receives honorary doctorate at Bath Abbey

Sir Peter Hall was today awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bath at a ceremony in Bath Abbey.

On being made a Doctor of Letters, Sir Peter said: “I have always loved Bath - I have always loved coming to Bath. I remember when the Theatre Royal was a rat-infested place that was about to collapse. I came here with touring companies because we all knew what the Theatre Royal might be, and indeed what it has become – you are fortunate to have such a wonderful, beautiful theatre.”

Sir Peter spoke in praise of “education, not as something only useful to the workplace, but something which will increase spiritual strength.”

“I shall long remember this day and you have been very kind to me,” he said. “I look forward to the University of Bath being both a synthesis of the old and new in the future.”

In his oratory to Sir Peter’s award, Professor Peter Redfern, Acting Director for the University’s School for Health, said Sir Peter had brought a “combination of the highest artistic sensibility and achievement with the drive and political skills of the chief executive.”

“If one were to catalogue the productions – plays for the stage mostly, but also operas, films and video – that Peter Hall has directed, one would seriously wonder how one man could cram so much into a single career,” he said.

Professor Redfern said that Sir Peter was well known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which he founded in 1960, at the age of 29. He served as its artistic director from then to 1968. He was director of the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988 and after leaving it he founded his own company which has performed recently in Bath. He was made Commander of the British Empire in 1963 and in 1977 was knighted for his services to the theatre.

In his introduction, the University’s Chancellor, Lord Tugendhat, said that the University of Bath: “may only be 40 years old, but already on some assessments it is in the top ten of universities in the UK, outperforming many universities that are far older.

“Our international reputation has also grown over the years such that we now attract many academics and students from outside this country, gaining enormously from this. We believe the University is playing an international role in shaping the futures of policy makers, administrators and business leaders.”

Sir Peter’s award was made at one of four degree ceremonies held today, with around 1000 students from Psychology, Chemistry, the School for Health, Education, Social & Policy Sciences, European Studies & Modern Languages and Economics & International Development attending ceremonies at Bath Abbey at 10-30am, 1-30pm, 4-30pm and 7-30pm.

Today’s ceremonies are part of the ten taking place this week, at which 2500 undergraduates and postgraduate students, the most ever graduating from the University, will receive their degree awards.

The ceremonies are all preceded by a public procession of some of the University’s senior officers and academics, presided over by its Chancellor, Lord Tugendhat. The processions will begin at the Guildhall, go into the High Street, right into Cheap Street, left down Farrs Passage into the Abbey Churchyard. They will return after the ceremonies past Rebecca’s Fountain and into the High Street. These roads will be closed to traffic for about six minutes during the processions. Today they will take place at approximately 10-20am, 11-30am (return), 1-20pm, 2-30pm (return), 4-20pm, 5-30pm (return), 7-20pm, 8-30pm (return) and tomorrow these will occur at approximately 10-20am, 11-30am (return), 2-05pm, 3-15pm (return), 4-50pm and 6pm (return).

The other honorary graduates at today’s ceremonies are the businessman Sir David Varney and the poet U A Fanthorpe.

Sir David Varney, whose achievements include appointments as Managing Director of Shell UK, as Chief Executive of BG (formerly British Gas), and as Chairman of mm02. He is currently Executive Chairman of HM Revenue and Customs. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Laws.

U A Fanthorpe, who was the first woman to be nominated for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry. She will receive the degree of Doctor of Letters.

Yesterday’s honorary graduates were:

• Dame Stephanie Shirley who set up an IT company, now known as Xansa, which was to change the status of professional women in hi tech occupations and become a multimillion pound business. Dame Stephanie also set up one of the top 50 grant-giving foundations in the UK, the Shirley Foundation, which has donated £50 million over the last seven years. She was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Laws.

• Sir John Chisholm is Executive Chairman of QinetiQ, an organisation that is a major presence in the defence, security and technology markets. A spin off from Sir John’s reorganisation of the UK Ministry of Defence’s research laboratories, QinetiQ floated on the London Stock Exchange last February with a market capitalisation of £1.3 billion. He was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Engineering.

• Sir Christopher Gent became Managing Director of Vodafone in 1985, at that time a small British company. Two decades later he had turned it into the world’s largest mobile telecommunications operation and engineered Vodafone’s historic acquisition of the Germany company, Mannesmann for £122 billion. He was knighted in 2001 for his contributions to the development of the mobile communications industry and has been lauded for his outstanding commercial and strategic leadership. He was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Laws.

Tomorrow’s honorary graduates are:

• Sir Terence Matthews, whose first company, Mitel, sold the first affordable push button tone phones, and its success created a world leading company in ATM network technology which sold for around £5 billion. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering.

• Professor Raymond Schinazi, an academic scientist who has been pivotal in the discovery and development of successful anti-HIV and anti-hepatitis drugs. He took his undergraduate degree at the University of Bath and graduated with a PhD in 1976. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Science.