2021 - Honorary grads announced

Ten to be honoured as graduates set to enjoy online celebration

Wed, 28 Jul 2021 11:08:00 BST
Oscar Marzaroli’s daughters Marie-Claire Marzaroli (right) and Nicola Marzaroli with Ricky Ross.
Oscar Marzaroli’s daughters Marie-Claire Marzaroli (right) and Nicola Marzaroli with Ricky Ross.

“To correct the mistakes of my past would be to circumvent youth.”

Those are the inspirational words of Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross, who will receive an honorary degree from Glasgow Caledonian University prior to an online graduation celebration this week.

The singer-songwriter and broadcaster will receive a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University for his outstanding contribution to Scottish music and culture, and for his support to the GCU Archive Centre.

Ricky supported a campaign to digitise a priceless photography archive containing iconic Scottish images taken by the celebrated photographer Oscar Marzaroli, which had been donated by his family to GCU’s Archive. Ricky, who got to know Oscar when Deacon Blue used his images on their early record covers, helped launch the fundraising campaign to raise the £200,000 required for the work needed to preserve, catalogue and digitise the entire collection and make it freely available to view online.

And he had this advice for graduates in the run-up to the celebration: “There were many points where I should have listened and didn't, but to correct those would be to circumvent youth. You have everything in front of you and the freedom to make some mistakes. So, let me encourage you to make a few of your own, not to over worry and keep learning. From now on you mark your own exams.”

Ricky will be honoured along with nine other notable personalities, including former Great British Rugby Paralympian Michael Kerr.

The honours will coincide with an online celebration tomorrow (July 29), which has been organised for GCU’s classes of 2020 and 2021 in place of a physical ceremony, which has not been possible this summer, or last, because of COVID-19 restrictions. Graduates from both cohorts will be invited to a physical ceremony in the future.

At the event, graduates will also hear messages from the University's leadership team including Chancellor Dr Annie Lennox OBE and Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Pamela Gillies CBE. They will also have the opportunity to catch up with lecturers and classmates.

Ricky added: “I am delighted to accept this great honour from Glasgow Caledonian University. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become aware of how much the University is at the heart of the city and its continued growth and success is a great example of how education is key to the culture and the economy of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

“As someone who has spent more than half my life here, I am grateful for everything Glasgow has given me. The University's decision to recognise a working musician is a timely reminder of the importance of the arts in our public life.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, said: “Graduation ceremonies are very special events at which the whole University community comes together as one to celebrate the considerable achievements of our talented students, all of whom are strongly committed to our mission for the common good. We are so very disappointed that the pandemic means we cannot celebrate together in person at this time. We are, however, a connected community and will find ways of doing so in the not too distant future. 

"Graduations also afford us the opportunity to welcome distinguished individuals into our GCU family as honorary graduates. This year we are privileged indeed to honour many worthy recipients who are: activists, leaders across many domains, creative designers, cultural icons and contributors and funders of charities and community organisations. They all share a deeply held core set of values that align with our own. They authentically live these values and are an inspiration to us all."

The University will also award honorary degrees to the following (although not at the event itself):

Michael Kerr, Doctor of Science (DSc) has been recognised for his outstanding sporting achievements, including an outstanding Olympic sporting legacy and contribution to higher education in advancing and profiling the development of sport for athletes with a disability. A former Great British Rugby Paralympian and World Champion and Double Paralympian (2012 and 2016) in wheelchair rugby, Michael suffered an accident when he was younger that led to him becoming wheelchair bound. He has created the Michael Kerr Active Project, a charity to help other people who have suffered a catastrophic injury.

Susan Collin Marks, Doctor of Laws (LLD) has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the promotion of peace and advancement of human rights. Susan has been aninternational peacemaker and peacebuilder for more than 30 years, in many areas of extreme conflict. She is co-founder of Search for Common Ground (a US non-profit organisation), which she stepped aside from in 2014.

Prof. Jackie Taylor, Doctor of Science (DSc) has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to Geriatric Medicine, dedication to improve health and well-being in the workplace and addressing workforce challenges within the NHS.President of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Jackie is an Honorary Professor at Glasgow University, and, since 1997, she has been a consultant at Glasgow Royal Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine.

Harriette Campbell, Doctor of Science (DSc) has been recognised for her outstanding community engagement over 30 years supporting African and Caribbean women in Scotland, many from the nursing profession. Harriette is afounding member of African and Caribbean Women's Association (ACWA). She is on the Board of the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council.

Jonny Benjamin, MBE Doctor of Letters (DLitt) has been recognised for his outstanding commitment and contribution to mental health services and suicide prevention. Jonny is a mental health campaigner, author and vlogger. In January 2014, he launched a social media campaign called 'Find Mike' to search for a stranger who had talked him out of taking his own life in 2008.

Arlene Smith, Doctor of the University (DUniv) has been recognised for her outstanding contribution and ability to provide hope, empathy and love through adversity, in memory of her son Jack.Founder of Brightest Star, a charity that supports bereaved families, Arlene lost her son Jack just before his sixth birthday in 2012.

Satish Kumar, Doctor of Laws (LLD) has been recognised for his outstanding contribution towards promoting peace and the environment through his activism.Activist and speaker, Satish has been a Jain monk, nuclear disarmament advocate and pacifist, and is founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies. One notable accomplishment is the completion of a peace walk of over 8,000 miles in 1973–4, to capitals of the world's earliest nuclear-armed countries.

Ian Urquhart, Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) has been recognised for his outstanding leadership, development and senior management of quality iconic Scottish products, notably Cashmere and whisky, with a wealth of other contributions across many sectors. Recently succeeded by his daughter Jenny asChairman of Johnston's of Elgin, a Scottish company, established in 1797 and known for its high-end cashmere products, Ian is also a past director of Food & Drink Scotland, and was heavily involved in the whisky industry, being managing director of Gordon & MacPhail. He also has interests in tourism.

Mark Hogarth, Doctor of Letters (DLitt) has been recognised for his outstanding commitment to fashion, design and branding as applied to iconic Scottish brands. He is the creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides.