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A special year for York St John University to honour inspirational figures

Thursday 10th November 2016

York St John University students will be graduating in the stunning setting of York Minster this November alongside an array of leading figures in journalism, broadcasting, sport, business, film and television. This year sees the University celebrate its 175th year and the special graduation ceremonies will pay tribute to one of the highest number of honorary graduates ever awarded.

2016 has been an inspirational year for our region’s Olympians and Paralympians and York St John is delighted to recognise the extraordinary achievements of wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft MBE, as well as the sporting success of road racing cyclist Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) and professional rugby league footballer Jamie Peacock MBE.

Yorkshire-born chef and television presenter James Martin, BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet OBE, investigative reporter Brian Deer, actress Julia Davis, and Manvinder Rattan, Musical Director at the John Lewis Partnership are also among the eight Honorary graduates celebrating with over 2,000 York St John students on 15, 16 and 17 November 2016.

Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University, said:

“Graduation is an exciting and rewarding time for all our students and this year we are delighted to be awarding honorary degrees to some truly inspirational people in our 175th year as an academic institution. These individuals have all made an outstanding impact in their respective fields and will be an inspiration to our students for many years to come.”

Chancellor of York St John University and Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, said:

“It is an immense privilege to be Chancellor of York St John University and I congratulate all graduands as we celebrate their achievements in this the University’s 175th anniversary year. The University’s motto ‘Ut Vitam Habeant et Abundiantus’ that they have life and have it abundantly’ says it all. The word ‘abundantly’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘being on top of a mighty wave’. This encapsulates what the University continues to be.  Every Blessings! ”

Honorary Degrees will be presented at the graduation ceremonies in York Minster by Chancellor of York St John University and Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu in front of an audience of graduands, their families and friends, and staff and guests of the University.


Honorary graduate biographies below.

Lyse Doucet OBE – Chief International Correspondent for the BBC 

Lyse Doucet is Chief International Correspondent and Senior Presenter for BBC World News television and BBC World Service Radio. She is regularly deployed to anchor special news coverage from the field and interview world leaders. Lyse played a key role in the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ across the Middle East and North Africa, and is a regular visitor to Afghanistan and Pakistan from where she has been reporting for the past two decades.

Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) – World champion track and road racing cyclist

Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) is a professional world champion track and road racing cyclist. Lizzie was the first British athlete to win a medal at the London Olympics in 2012, picking up a silver medal in the Women's Road Race. In 2015 she was the UCI World Road Race Champion and in 2016 won gold in the team time trial at the Road World Championships in Doha.

Jamie Peacock MBE – Professional rugby league footballer

Jamie Peacock is a professional rugby league footballer who played for Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls in the Super League and captained both Great Britain and England at international level. He is one of the most successful players in Super League history, having won a total of nine Super League championships, four Challenge Cup winners’ medals, and has been named to the Super League Dream Team on eleven occasions.

Hannah Cockroft MBE – Paralympic wheelchair racer

Hannah Cockroft is a Paralympic wheelchair racer specialising in sprint distances in the T34 classification. She holds the Paralympic and world records for the 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metres in her classification. Returning from the Rio Olympics in 2016, Hannah celebrated winning gold in the T34 100 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres titles.

James Martin – Chef and television presenter

James Martin, Yorkshire-born chef and television presenter, is best known for presenting the BBC cookery series Saturday Kitchen from 2006 until 2016. He worked for many leading chefs in his early career, before opening the Hotel and Bistro du Vin in Winchester at the age of 22 as head chef. James’s television career began in 1996 with The Big Breakfast and Ready, Steady, Cook. He has since gone on to film numerous television shows and has published a range of cookery books. 

Brian Deer - British investigative reporter

Brian Deer is a British investigative reporter. He is best known for inquiries into the drug industry, medicine and social issues for the Sunday Times. He has been named Specialist Journalist of the Year twice at the British Press Awards and received a HealthWatch Award for his contributions to the public’s understanding of health issues.

Julia Davis - Comedian, actress, writer, director and producer

Julia Davis is an English comedian, actress, writer, director and producer. Julia studied for a degree in English and Drama at the College of Ripon and York St John. Julia is known for writing and starring in the BBC Three comedy Nighty Night, Hunderby and Camping. She also appeared in the BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey. Her film roles include Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Confetti and Four Lions.

Manvinder Rattan - Musical Director at the John Lewis Partnership

Manvinder Rattan is Musical Director at the John Lewis Partnership where he coordinates the activity of more than 20 choirs across the country. He studied French and History at the The College of Ripon and York St John where he was a Choral Scholar. Manvinder also plays an active involvement with Sing for Pleasure, a charity that encourages better singing for adults and children, training conductors and vocal leaders.




Notes to editors: 

Please note that ceremonies are ticket only.

York St John University was founded on 17 May 1841 and 2016 marks their 175th anniversary. They achieved University status 10 years ago and were awarded Research Degree Awarding Powers for PhD and doctoral programmes in 2015. The award winning campus and facilities have undergone a £100m transformation over the past 10 years, including new library and IT facilities, student accommodation, biomedical labs, a 57 acre sports park and a new Students’ Union Building.


For further information please contact Amy Hall, Communications Officer on T: 01904 876609 or E: [email protected] or go to

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