“At the University of Bolton, we take great pride in providing a quality, supportive learning environment for our students.”
Professor George E Holmes DL | President & Vice Chancellor
“...tutors are very supportive and you’re not just a student ID number, at this university you are an individual with a name.”
Ellisse Vernon | BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing
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The founder of a project to support students and help them to build better lives has been installed as Pro Chancellor at the University of Bolton.Dr Rasha Said, founder of The Toucan Project and Co-Chair of the Saïd Foundation, said: “It is truly wonderful to be here with you all today and it’s an honour to be installed as Pro Chancellor at this great university. “I want to congratulate every student graduating today, as well as your loved ones who are rightly proud of your achievements.” Dr Said studied Psychiatry and Cognitive Science at Brown University in the USA, followed by further education at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. She started her career at Condé Nast Publications and went on to work at Christie’s. After spotting a gap in the market for a way to help creatives get their businesses in front of influential business luminaries, Toucan was born. Dr Said was awarded a Doctor of Business Administration for her outstanding contribution to business innovation by the University in 2021. She also sits on the board of the Oxford Business School as well as the Oxford Global Leadership Council, The Oxford Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, HelloGenius and is a Founding Ambassador on the Prince's Trust #WomenSupportingWomen Council, also working closely with both Save The Children and the International Rescue Committee. Dr Said told the audience: “This is a unique university, and you have been able to enjoy a rich cultural experience in one of the country’s most diverse places of learning. “I have found it incredibly inspiring to witness the progress that has been made when it comes to supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.“It is the notion of social mobility and the many opportunities that mobility affords that drives me every day.”She added: “I am the Co-Chair of my family’s charity, the Saïd Foundation. Since 1984, we have believed in the power of education to transform lives and society at large. We passionately believe that wherever you are from, there should be no barrier to how far your talents can take you. “Remember, now that you are part of the alumni family, the University of Bolton will have your back.” On the same day, Mrs Diane Hawkins DL JP, Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws for her outstanding contribution to Charitable Work. The late Her Majesty the Queen appointed Mrs Hawkins as Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Greater Manchester on the retirement of Sir Warren Smith, KCVO, on 4 July 2022. Mrs Hawkins, who lives near Bolton and is Chair of local domestic abuse charity Fortalice, is a solicitor and charity leader. She said she was very proud to receive the honorary degree, and added: “I have lived in Bolton now for over 40 years though I am not born and bred here, but I think I am counted as one of Bolton’s own and I am very proud to be so. “My heart and my home is here in Bolton and it is in Bolton where I have been heavily involved in charitable endeavours, particularly Fortalice, a beacon of national excellence leading the way forward in providing a women’s refuge for women and children escaping domestic abuse and also an outreach support centre providing hope and help for so many people facing the scourge of domestic violence. The University supports Fortalice hugely and we are very grateful. “The very best of luck to all of you and congratulations.” Born in Sale, Cheshire, Mrs Hawkins was educated at Withington Girls School in Manchester, where she is now the Alumna Governor. Mrs Hawkins graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in Law. After qualifying as a solicitor in 1982, Diane specialised in occupational disease litigation. She represented those who had worked in the Barrow-in-Furness shipyards, as well as workers in power stations and asbestos manufacturers who were fighting for compensation for terminal asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.
She is now a Justice of the Peace, and since 2014 has been sitting solely in the Family Court at the Civil Justice Centre. She is passionate about supporting families and children suffering from domestic abuse. A passionate Cub Leader in Bolton for many years, Mrs Hawkins also serves as Chair of Bolton Scout Trust, which runs the Bibby’s Farm scout camp near Chorley. The campsite and activity centre is enjoyed by around 10,000 children a year, in no small part thanks to Diane’s fundraising efforts. Other recipients of honorary degrees on Thursday were:
Clive Memmott OBE - Doctor of Business Administration for his outstanding contribution to Business. Since 2010, Mr Memmott has been Chief Executive of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC), the largest Chamber in the UK. He has amassed a wealth of UK and international business experience, including several senior positions in private sector companies. He holds a variety of advisory and non-executive positions, including as a director of Brockholes Enterprises Ltd and Greater Manchester Environment Trust. He is a Trustee of the National Football Museum. In 2021, he was awarded an OBE for his services to the business community.
Don Wightman – Doctor of Business Administration for his outstanding contribution to Business. Mr Wightman is Chairman and Chief Executive of Novara Cellmark, a multinational recycling conglomerate that employs more than 1,000 people in 30 countries. Following his early education in Bradford, Mr Wightman studied Applied Chemistry at what is now De Montfort University in Leicester. He grew his own private company, specialising in food packaging products and ingredients, and by 2005 was generating more than £100m in revenue with operations in Europe, North America, Asia and the Caribbean. Having consolidated his businesses into a Swiss trading company in 2006, this ultimately merged with a major multinational in 2023.
Richard Skerritt - Doctor of Social Science for his outstanding contribution to Sustainable Tourism Development. Mr Skerritt is principal director at Skerritt & Associates, and has been a major force for socioeconomic change and sustainable economic development in the Caribbean and beyond. For more than 35 years, he has led positive, long-lasting change in the private sector, government ministries and regional sports. As President of Cricket West Indies from 2019-2023, he was instrumental in improving the organisation’s finances, which had been in decline for some time. He spent more than a decade as the Minister of Tourism & International Transport for St Kitts and Nevis.
Stuart Proffitt - Doctor of Letters for his outstanding contribution to Publishing. Bolton-born Mr Proffitt is a distinguished book editor and publisher. In 1983 he joined Collins, later known as HarperCollins, and spent 15 years there, initially as an editorial assistant and later as Publisher of the Trade Division. In 1998 Mr Proffitt was appointed Publishing Director of Penguin Press, a division of Penguin UK (now Penguin Random House). He has remained in this role ever since. He has worked with many top authors and public figures over the years, including Doris Lessing, Simon Schama, Henry Kissinger, Joseph Stiglitz and Margaret Thatcher.
Professor Christopher Dorries - Doctor of Laws for his outstanding contribution to Coroners and the Coronial Service. Professor Dorries has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a leading solicitor, author and lecturer. In 1991, he was appointed HM Coroner for South Yorkshire (West), covering approximately 3,500 reported cases and 600 inquests each year. He has regularly lectured for more than 30 years. Recently, he has worked with the University of Bolton and held the post of Visiting Professor at the Centre for Contemporary Coronial Law.
His Honour Judge Thomas Teague KC - Doctor of Laws for his outstanding contribution to Law. His Honour Judge Teague KC is the Chief Coroner of England and Wales. Born in Weymouth in 1954, Judge Teague was educated at St Francis Xavier’s College in Liverpool and Christ’s College Cambridge. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2000, and a Legal Assessor to the General Medical Council from 2002 to 2006, when he was appointed a Circuit Judge. Between 2016 and 2019, he chaired the independent public inquiry into the death of Anthony Grainger. Judge Teague was appointed Chief Coroner in 2020. His responsibilities include providing support, leadership and guidance for coroners in England and Wales, as well as approving coroner appointments.