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British classicist and Sri Lankan entrepreneur honoured by Northumbria University

12th July 2018

Two inspiring women, who have shared their individual passions for history and design with thousands of people all over the world, have been honoured by Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Professor Mary Beard, one of Britain's best-known Classicists, has been made a Doctor of Letters, while Linda Speldewinde, an entrepreneur and founder of the Academy of Design in Sri Lanka, has been made a Doctor of Civil Law.

Both women have been recognised for their ability to communicate their enthusiasm for their subject to a wide audience, and for inspiring the next generation of historians, entrepreneurs and designers.

A distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Newnham College, Mary Beard 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.

She is also a well-known broadcaster, media commentator and television presenter, fronting 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.

In 2013, Mary was made an OBE for her services to Classical scholarship.

On receiving her Honorary Degree from Northumbria University, Mary said: “I'm very honoured to receive this award on such a glorious day at Northumbria University in Newcastle.”Also receiving her honorary degree today was Linda Speldewinde, recognised as one of Sri Lanka’s leading young female entrepreneurs.

Linda Speldewinde’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.

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.

Linda has also been a key supporter of encouraging sustainable development in Sri Lanka, with ventures ranging from education, e-commerce, fashion retail and grass root level manufacturing.

With a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s most progressive business brains, Linda was the highest-ranked woman in a list of the 40 most influential people under the age of 40 in Sri Lanka, and ranked third in Echelon Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Sri Lanka. She is ardent believer of a future rooted in true entrepreneurial innovation in a new digital world. 

On receiving her Honorary Degree, Linda said: “My dedicated mission is to make a difference through design and contribute globally with what South Asia can offer. We have created a whole ecosystem encompassing design education, craft, apparel supply chain and front-end retail that we are leveraging to make this contribution. Our mission extends across creating the future leaders, uplifting the village livelihood, retaining our region’s craft and heritage, creating transparency in the supply chain and supporting the country and industries to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. I am privileged to receive this honorary degree and hope this inspires more people to be successful through constancy to purpose.’’

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