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Sir Ian Botham with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
Sir Ian Botham with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
Orator Dr Avil Shanker
Orator Dr Avil Shanker
Sir Ian accepts his degree
Sir Ian accepts his degree
Sir Ian after the ceremony
Sir Ian after the ceremony

Internal News - 27 June 2008

Honorary graduate - Sir Ian Botham

Oration by Dr Avi Shankar:

Sir Ian Botham is one of Britain’s most loved sporting heroes.

For the ancient Greeks, heroes were the offspring of mortals and gods. Today, we’re more likely to think of our heroes as people who demonstrate skill and courage to triumph in the face of adversity or as people who do exceptional things that we mere mortals can only ever dream of doing.

Sir Ian first came to Somerset in the late 1950s and attended Millfield Junior School and then Buckler’s Mead Secondary School in Yeovil.

By 15, Sir Ian was already showing signs of the steely determination and a never-say-die attitude that were to become two of his hallmark characteristics. Supposedly his careers master when learning of his cricketing ambitions said, “Fine, everyone wants to play sports. But what are you really going to do?”

Sir Ian joined Somerset County Cricket Club in 1974 and by 1977 had attracted the attention of the England cricket selectors. He went on to play 102 tests, scored 5,200 runs, took 383 wickets and held 120 catches in a phenomenal test career that spanned 15 years.

He is widely recognised as one of the world’s best-ever all-rounders and one of England’s greatest ever cricketers. Sir Ian carved his heroic status into the national psyche during the summer of 1981 against England’s oldest cricketing foe the Australians. After a draw and a defeat in the first two tests and with another defeat looming in the third, Sir Ian single-handedly restored the team’s fortunes as he blasted 149 not out. That innings has since been described as the fourth best innings of all time.

England went on to win the match and the euphoria of that remarkable victory against all the odds was carried into the next two matches with Sir Ian again performing heroics in leading England to victory. The 1981 Ashes series is now popularly known as 'Botham’s Ashes' and later that year Sir Ian was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The affection that the British public have for Sir Ian also stems from his heroic efforts as a charity fundraiser.

He was inspired after a visit to a Taunton hospital for treatment on a broken toe. He stumbled into a children's ward and was shocked to learn that some of the children there had only weeks to live. He has since undertaken 11 long-distance charity walks; his first in 1985, was a 900-mile trek from John O'Groats to Land's End.

Sir Ian has since raised more than £10 million pounds for various charities including Leukaemia Research.

On the cricket pitch Sir Ian was dominant and domineering, and single-handedly he could change the course of an entire match. Sir Ian continues to live life to the full but as his charity exploits demonstrate, he is also keenly aware that there are many others for whom fate has not been so kind.

In today’s vacuous, celebrity-led culture, the word hero is bandied about all too often. However, in Sir Ian’s case, it is well and truly deserved. The University of Bath takes pride in nurturing future British sporting talent, and we are delighted to confer an honorary degree on one of our greatest ever sporting heroes. Chancellor, I present to you Sir Ian Botham, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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