Aston University celebrates graduates' success


14 July 2015

Aston University held its graduation ceremonies in the grand surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall all last week.

There were nine degree ceremonies in total at the grade-1 listed landmark, which first opened as a music hall in 1834. From 20 to 24 July, more than 1,700 students from across Aston’s four Schools received their degrees and were commended for their hard work.

During the ceremonies, the University also presented 11 honorary degrees to the following leading figures in fields such as business, engineering, the media, healthcare and politics.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Ashton of Upholland

Baroness Ashton worked in the voluntary, public and private sectors, focussing on developing economic partnerships to tackle areas of neglect and deprivation.

She was asked to join the House of Lords in 1999 and was appointed education minister for primary schools. In 2008, Catherine moved to Brussels to become the first woman trade commissioner. She was later appointed EU High Representative for foreign and security policy and Vice President of the European Commission.

Chris Bale

A qualified engineer, Chris began his career in manufacturing management with Jaguar in Birmingham. He then moved into the power industry and in 2001 joined Scottish Power as Director of Operations in the Generation Business.

Chris then became Executive Director of Performance and Innovation at the UK government’s Environment Agency. He is now CEO of Power, Oil & Gas at Honeywell Group, based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is also a Director of South West Solar Parks.

Jerry Blackett

After a worldwide career with Barclays Bank, Jerry joined the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce in 2008 as Policy & Communications Director. He was Chief Executive of the Chambers between 2006 and 2015.

Throughout his time at the Chambers, Jerry specialised in articulating the voice of Greater Birmingham businesses to decision makers, particularly local authorities and other public sector bodies. In 2013, Jerry worked closely with Lord Heseltine to model how Chambers of Commerce across the UK could deliver a business support signposting in their local communities.

Alison Brimelow CBE

Alison had a varied career in the public sector including the NHS, HM Diplomatic Service and the Department of Trade and Industry. She moved into the Patent Office in the 1980s before becoming its Comptroller General and Chief Executive from 1999 to 2005.

In 2007, Alison was appointed President of the European Patent Office, an international organisation with over 30 member states, an annual budget of €1.4bn and 7,000 staff. She was awarded a CBE in 2005 and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011.

Evan Davies

Evan is a presenter of the BBC 2 current affairs programme Newsnight, a role he began in 2014. Prior to that, he was a presenter of the Today programme on Radio 4 and the Economics Editor of the BBC.

Before joining the BBC in 1993, he was an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and at the London Business School. He has written numerous papers, articles and newspaper and magazine columns as well as the book, Public Spending.

Uta Frith DBE FRS FBA FMEd Sci

Uta is trained in clinical psychology and has worked throughout her career as a research scientist for the Medical Research Council. The focus on her research has been the study of autism and dyslexia. She is known for identifying the core symptoms of these disorders in terms of specific and persistent failure in separable neurocognitive abilities.

Uta is now Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus. In 2012, she was appointed an Honorary DBE.

David Stidwill

A qualified optometrist, David has worked as a practitioner in the field for over 50 years. In 1972, he became a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Vision Sciences at Aston University and continues to have strong links with the institution.

David has been a member of the Child Eye Care Committee and the representative optometrist to the Burntwood, Lichfield and Tamworth Primary Care Trust (NHS). He has carried out approximately 90,000 patient eye examinations to date.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Warsi

A lawyer, a businesswoman, a campaigner and a cabinet minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is best known for being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet.

In 2007, after setting up her own legal practice, Sayeeda was elevated to the House of Lords and was later appointed Minister without Portfolio. She was also named Chairman of the Conservative Party – the first Asian to chair a major British political party.

The Rt Hon David Willetts

David Willetts is Executive Chairman of the Resolution Foundation and a Visiting Professor at King’s College London. He is also a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation and a member of the Council of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

David was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Havant from 1992 to 2015. From 2010 to 2014 he was the Minister for Universities and Science. David has also written widely on economic and social policy.

Jacky Wright

A seasoned global leader in Information Technology, Jacky draws on extensive experience in developing and implementing strategic plans and managing large teams of people across a variety of industries.

Throughout her career, she has risen to the senior ranks of major corporations such as BP, General Electric, Accenture and, currently, Microsoft, where she is Vice-President of IT Strategic Enterprise Services.

Professor Sir Nicholas Wright

Professor Wright has worked in healthcare for nearly 50 years, first becoming a Demonstrator in Pathology in 1966. In 1980, he was appointed Professor of Histopathology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. 

He became Director of Clinical Research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1988 and was knighted for services to medicine in 2006. He is currently Centre Lead for Tumour Biology in the Barts Cancer Institute.

Distinction of University Benefactor

The Distinction of University Benefactor is presented to organisations and/or individuals who have made significant contributions to the University.

Charlotte Keenan

Charlotte joined Goldman Sachs in 2015 as Head of Corporate Engagement. She oversees the 10,000 Small Businesses Programme in the UK as well as the Office of Corporate Engagement.

Until recently, Charlotte was the Chief Executive of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a charity focused on countering religious extremism. She started her career in Investment Banking, working with Jeffries and Co in Houston and then with JP Morgan in London.


For further media information, please contact Naheeda Akhtar, University Communications on 0121 204 5004 or n.akhtar18@aston.ac.uk