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Actress, writer and comedian Diane Morgan was awarded an honorary degree by her home town university on the final day of graduation ceremonies.Bolton-born Diane, famous for her TV character Philomena Cunk and appearances in shows such as Motherland and After Life, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Arts for her outstanding contribution to television and comedy. She told the audience at the Albert Halls in Bolton Town Hall: “Ladies and gentlemen, I should not be here today. I shouldn’t. There’s been a dreadful mistake. I got a G in maths. A G! “But I thank you for your generosity. Thirty years ago just outside this building I bumped into Maxine Peake who is also a Boltonian and we had met two weeks earlier when we were both auditioning to get into Manchester Polytechnic for the acting course. Neither of us got in. “It took us three long years to get into drama school and during that time I had various jobs – packing worming tablets, selling fish and chips and I was also an Avon Lady. “Most of these jobs I’d been sacked from. I was fired from the Last Drop Village tea rooms in Bolton for not knowing what a cream tea is. I thought it was a tea with cream in it. But now I have an honorary doctorate! Unbelievable. “I am here to tell you that anything is possible. If you’ve got passion and you work hard, you can do absolutely anything, because everyone told me that I wouldn’t be able to make it as an actress, that it was an impossible dream, that you’d need maths! You don’t need maths! You don’t need maths for anything! Take that Rishi Sunak!” She added: “This is such an honour. I am so proud, thank you so much.”
Bafta-nominated Diane, who is from Farnworth and attended George Tomlinson School, Kearsley, now Kearsley Academy, where she set her sights on a career in comedy from the age of 15. In her early twenties, Diane studied at drama school, before working in a succession of jobs – from potato peeler to dental assistant – before embarking on her remarkable career in comedy.
She subsequently made her first attempt at stand-up comedy. She was placed second in the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year award in 2006, and as runner-up in the 2006 Funny Women Awards.
Diane is probably best known for her portrayal of Philomena Cunk, an extremely dim-witted and ill-informed interviewer and commentator on current affairs, who first appeared in a regular segment on Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe TV show.
Mr Jon Lord OBE - Doctor of Social Science for his outstanding contribution to Bolton.Mr Lord is the former Chief Executive of Bolton at Home, which he led for 13 successful years before his retirement. During his tenure, Jon oversaw the transition from council to Housing Association ownership for 18,000 homes in the borough. In his time as CEO of Bolton’s biggest housing group, Bolton at Home built around 300 new affordable homes a year. Jon also served as Chair of the Greater Manchester Housing Partnership from 2010 to 2022. Jon was educated at Canon Slade School in Bolton and has lived in Bolton all his life. He is a trustee at Bolton Wanderers Community Trust and volunteers with Bolton Urban Outreach, which provides food for households in crisis. He was awarded an OBE for Services to Housing in 2008.Dr Bob Johnson - Doctor of Science for his outstanding contribution to Psychology.Dr Johnson is an esteemed psychiatrist with a lifelong commitment to understanding the mind and emotional distress. Between 1955 and 1962, Dr Johnson studied both medicine and psychology at Cambridge University. After a world study trip where he was influenced by seeing the success of patient involvement in small local mental health centres, Dr Johnson returned to England and became disillusioned with established biomedical psychiatric practice, with its emphasis on drugs and electric shock treatment. In 1991 he became a consultant psychiatrist for a Special Unit in Parkhurst prison, where he pioneered therapy for dangerous and disturbed prisoners. Dr Johnson went on to found a charity for people with severe personality disorders and maintained his interest in the impact of early trauma on offending behaviours.Ms Ghazala Baig - Doctor of Health Care for her outstanding contribution to Healthcare.The character has since appeared in other ‘mockumentaries’. For her performance in Cunk on Earth, broadcast in 2022 she was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Female Comedy Performance. Other recipients of honorary degrees on Friday were:
Ms Baig is Chief Executive Officer of MedEquip4Kids, a children’s charity based in Manchester. For more than 23 years, she has helped raise millions for hospitals in the North West, giving thousands of children a better healthcare experience. She began her career in menswear sales at Kendal’s in Manchester and went on to manage a chain of menswear shops in the 1980s, after which she helped to set up her family business, DreamWorks GB, alongside her husband. In 2000 Ms Baig moved to MedEquip4Kids, and has stayed there ever since. Today, MedEquip4Kids provides vital medical equipment and enhanced play facilities in hospitals; disability equipment for special schools; and toys, books and games for children’s mental health services.Dr Luca Beccari - Doctor of Laws for his outstanding contribution to International Law.
Dr Beccari is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, International Economic Co-operation and Telecommunication of the Republic of San Marino. He was born in San Marino in 1974, and graduated from the ‘Carlo Bo’ University of Urbino with a degree in Economics and Commerce. He has held various top management positions including as the Official responsible for the Treasury Department. Alongside his studies and work, Dr Beccari has long been dedicated to politics. He has been a member of the San Marino Christian Democratic Party (PDCS) since 1993 and an uninterrupted member of the Party Leadership and Central Council since 2010. He was elected member of the Great and General Council (Parliament) for the first time in 2012. In 2014, Dr Beccari was conferred the Knight Grand Cross decorated with Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.Mr Notis Mitarachi - Doctor of Business Administration for his outstanding contribution to Business and Politics. Mr Mitarachi is an experienced Greek politician and serving Member of Parliament. A member of the New Democracy party, he has served as Greece’s Minister of Migration & Asylum between 2020-2023; Deputy Minister of Labour & Social Affairs from 2019 to 2020; and Deputy Minister of Development and Competitiveness between 2012 and 2015. He is also a Fellow of the British Chartered Management Institute and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder. Among his many accolades, in 2022 Mr Miterachi was awarded the Grand Decoration with Shash (Grand Cross) of Honorin Gold of the Republic of Austria, as well as the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Agatha of the Republic of San Marino.