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Celebrated figures to receive honorary degrees from Northumbria University

4th July 2018

Five eminent figures from the fields of law, business, philanthropy and classical studies will be awarded honorary degrees from Northumbria University, Newcastle, this summer.

The degrees will be awarded during the University’s annual honorary degree ceremonies, which take place between Thursday 5th July and Wednesday 11th July.

The UK’s most senior judge, The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, is to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

Lady Hale became the first woman to serve on the Law Commission, where the work of her team led to major legislation such as the Children Act 1989 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

In 1994 she was appointed a High Court Judge, was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1999, and became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2004. In 2009 she became one of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (UKSC), the highest court of appeal in the UK. She became Deputy President of the UKSC in 2013 and its President in 2017.

She helped to establish and has been President of the UK Association of Women Judges since its foundation in 2003 and was President of the International Association of Women Judges from 2010 to 2012.

Linda Speldewinde, an entrepreneur and founder of the Academy of Design in Sri Lanka, is to be made a Doctor of Civil Law.

Linda’s name is known in international fashion and design circles for her immense scope of work in uniting design-led innovation with enterprise within South Asia, particularly Sri Lanka where she is from.

A graduate of the Postgraduate Institute of Management in Sri Lanka, in 2001 Linda founded the Academy of Design (AOD) in Colombo – a key partner of Northumbria’s School of Design, with key research and teaching projects taking place between the two institutions.

Since then she has used the power of design to make an impact on education, the creative sector, rural crafts and communities and social and cultural sustainability, both in Sri Lanka and further afield.

In 2009, Linda launched the Sri Lanka Design Festival, in partnership with key leaders from Sri Lanka’s textile industry, the Ministry of Education, world leading clothing manufactures and future trends consultants. She was awarded the ‘International Young Fashion Entrepreneur’ Award for Sri Lanka by the British Council in the same year.

Singaporean brothers, Tek Seng and Wee Teng Woon, who have helped students from all over the world achieve their potential through scholarships, prizes and funding are to receive honorary Doctor of Civil Law degrees.

The brothers have developed a strong connection with the North East over the past 40 years, a relationship which began after Wee Teng, the younger of the two, first came to the region in the 1970s.

As one of the early cohort of international students to study at Newcastle Polytechnic, now Northumbria University, Wee Teng has maintained his links with Northumbria ever since.

Along with Tek Seng and their two other brothers, he set up a philanthropic foundation – the Woon Brothers Foundation – which has allowed hundreds of students to pursue their academic ambitions and potential.

Both brothers share a passion for art and in 2012 they established the annual Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize. Run in partnership with Northumbria University and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, the prize is open to final year undergraduate art students of any nationality and is worth £40,000, making it one of the most generous in the UK.





Jonathan Ruffer, who leads The Auckland Project and Eleven Arches, is to be made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law.

Jonathan grew up in North Yorkshire and read English at Cambridge before training as a barrister and then moving into the investment world, setting up Ruffer LLP in 1994.

In 2012, he purchased the 900-year-old Auckland Castle, in County Durham, as well as Jacob and His Twelve Sons, a series of paintings by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, which have been housed in the castle for more than 250 years.

Determined to keep the paintings for the people of the North East and to allow access to the Castle, which had previously served as a private palace for the Prince Bishops of Durham, Jonathan established The Auckland Castle Trust.

The charity, now known as The Auckland Project, is working to create an arts, faith and heritage destination of international significance, which will draw visitors from across the UK and abroad.

Jonathan also chairs Eleven Arches, a sister charity, that produces the popular open-air theatrical production Kynren – an epic tale of England, set against the backdrop of Auckland Castle.


Professor Mary Beard, one of Britain's best-known Classicists, is to receive a Doctor of Letters.

A distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Newnham College, she has written numerous books on the Ancient World, including the 2008 Wolfson Prize-winner, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town.

In 2015 she published the critically-acclaimed SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, and last year released the number one Sunday Times Bestseller Women & Power. In addition, Mary is Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and writes a thought-provoking blog, A Don's Life.

Mary is well known for her role as a broadcaster, media commentator and television presenter. She fronted the highly acclaimed TV series, Meet the Romans and Rome – Empire without Limit, as well as documentaries on Pompeii and Caligula. Most recently, she was a presenter for the landmark BBC series Civilisations, with a book based on the episodes she presented recently published.

She is a Fellow of the British Academy and was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018 for services to the study of Classical civilisation.

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