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Leading lights across professions awarded Honorary Degrees

MDX honours individuals from the Law, Business, Health and Creative Industries in Summer Graduation 2019

The University's mace was unveiled at Graduation 2018 - it was designed by leading silversmith Richard Fox, who studied at Middlesex's predecessor institution Hornsey School of Art and subsequently at the Royal College of Art, returning to Middlesex as an Associate Lecturer.

Graduation is the pinnacle of a student’s journey at Middlesex but it is also an opportunity for the University to celebrate and reward the successes of alumni and other individuals who have reached the top of their profession and made a difference to society.

This week Middlesex will honour and say thank you to individuals who have excelled in their fields including Maggie Appleton, the CEO of the Royal Air Force Museum, Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann, OBE Chief Executive of WorldSkills UK and Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, President of the International Criminal Court.

Commenting on Graduation Week and the Honorary Graduates, Middlesex University Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Blackman said:

“Graduation is a high point in the year for me as well as for our amazing students. It is also a wonderful opportunity to honour outstanding individuals and celebrate what they have achieved in their professional lives and for society.  I am delighted to welcome this year’s Honorary Graduates to Middlesex and I hope this is the beginning of a strong partnership with the University.”


The week kicks off with Gerard Woodward receiving his Award.   Gerard is a novelist, poet and short story writer, best known for his trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels concerning the troubled Jones family. The second of these, I’ll Go To Bed at Noon, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2004 and was recently included in The Sunday Times’s list of the 100 best novels of the 21st Century (so far!).

He did the art and design foundation course at Middlesex Polytechnic, as it then was, before going on to study for a BA in Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art. A radical change of direction led him to abandon this course and study social anthropology at the LSE instead. He has since published six novels, five collections of poetry and two collections of short stories. His poetry has earned him a Gregory Award, a Somerset Maugham Award and two T.S. Eliot Prize shortlistings. Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘one of our finest writers’, Woodward’s work often centres on the ironies and absurdities of everyday life, sometimes applying darkly surrealistic twists to otherwise ordinary situations.

He has won widespread acclaim for a body of work that now spans nearly 30 years. He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

On receiving his Award, Gerard said: “It is a source of great pleasure that the institution I left as an unknown but hopeful apprentice artist 40 years ago has welcomed me back and given me this honour. The training I received on the Foundation Course opened my eyes to the world in a way that has been invaluable to me as a writer.”

Betsy Gregory has worked in dance for more than 40 years, as a performer, teacher, rehearsal director, programmer, producer, mentor and artistic director. Trained at London Contemporary Dance School in the 1970s, she was one of the first generation of independent, contemporary dance artists in Britain, performing and teaching for many choreographers and companies, most notably as a founder member of Second Stride.

In 1988, she was offered an Arts Council bursary to build her arts management skills and went on to work with John Ashford at The Place Theatre, first as Programme Manager and later, Associate Director. In 1997, she joined Dance Umbrella and in January 2007, succeeded Val Bourne as Artistic Director, a post she held until November 2013. Since then, she has continued to work on projects that interest and inspire her. These have included a return to the stage in 2014, performing at Sadler’s Wells in Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion’s Olivier Award nominated The Elders Project and subsequently, in 2017 in Annie-B Parson’s The Road Awaits Us. From 2015-17, she served as mentor to five dance artists as part of the EU-funded project Dancing Museums and, more recently, has facilitated meetings, workshops and panel discussions for European Dancehouse Network in Lemesos, Prague, Dresden, Bassano del Grappa and Budapest.

In 2005 she was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for services to dance. Currently, she is a member of the board of Aerowaves, Chair of the Nottingham-based organisation, Dance4 and recently began work on the second iteration of Dancing Museums.

Betsy,  who didn't study dance as part of her Major at university in the US, said she was "surprised, thrilled, amazed" to become an Honorary Doctor.

“As a working dance professional, it never dawned on me that my contribution might be recognised in this way, especially by a university with a dance department as highly regarded as Middlesex’s,” she said.

In her graduation address, she told students that "you are the lucky ones - because you found the arts. You've found an interest, hopefully a passion, which can sustain you and inspire you for a lifetime whatever path you take.

"Follow your instincts, wherever they take you. Keep one eye open to what's happening around you. Get ready - most of us who make our career in the arts don't become famous and don't get rich. But we do have fascinating, satisfying and fulfilling work lives and we have a lot of fun."


Baroness Dido Harding became Chair of NHS Improvement in October 2017. She is Deputy Chair of The Court of The Bank of England and Chair of the Bank’s Remuneration Committee.

She was Chief Executive of TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC from 2010 to May 2017. Prior to TalkTalk, Dido was Sainsbury’s convenience director, having been appointed to Sainsbury’s operating board in March 2008. Dido joined Sainsbury’s from Tesco PLC where she held a variety of senior roles both in the UK and international businesses. Prior to this, she worked at Kingfisher plc and Thomas Cook Limited where she gained considerable retail experience. She has also served on the boards of The British Land Company PLC and Cheltenham Racecourse. She is a member of the UK National Holocaust Foundation Board, a trustee of MyAgro an African social enterprise and a Steward of the Jockey Club.

In August 2014, Dido was offered a Peerage and she now sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative Peer. She was appointed to the Economic Affairs Committee of the Lords in July 2017. Dido is married to politician John Penrose, has two children and in what spare time she has left is a jockey and racehorse owner.

She said: “I am very honoured to receive this award from Middlesex University. The University does great work particularly in the way you work collaboratively with industry and it’s great to play a part in that.”

Rachel Ellison MBE is an executive leadership coach, working with CEOs and emerging talent across the commercial, public and third sectors.

From retail to refugee camps, logistics, electronics and diplomacy, to prisons, healthcare and non-governmental aid organisations, Rachel supports leaders wanting to dip beneath the surface to grow themselves and develop their teams.

Rachel specialises in global organisations, including emerging economies and post-conflict zones such as Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, Myanmar (Burma) and Kenya. Her clients include HSBC, Samsung, M&S, Boots, the Foreign Office, the Department for International Trade, the NHS, UK Sport and UNICEF.

A former BBC television news reporter and international development aid project director, Rachel has worked across more than 40 different cultures. Aged 36, she was awarded an MBE ‘for the promotion of human rights and the self-empowerment of women in Afghanistan’. Her team won BBC Team of the Year.

Rachel champions greater diversity and sustainability. Her first book Global Leadership & Coaching – Flourishing under intense pressure at work (Routledge) calls for higher ethics in leadership, to increase productivity, profit and joy in coming to work.

Rachel read Psychology at the University of Birmingham. She gained a Master’s degree in Professional Executive Leadership Coaching with i-coach academy and Middlesex University.

She said, “I feel deeply honoured to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Middlesex University because of the value it puts on informal, real-life learning as well as academic rigour.”

Like many students working to make ends meet, Hayley Tatum started her retail career on the checkouts at Tesco. What was supposed to be a part-time job that would earn her some money before starting at university, turned into a career that has led her to the boardroom. She is now responsible for the wellbeing and development of 146,000 colleagues at Asda as Senior Vice President – People.

Hayley moved from the checkouts into a variety of supervisory and management roles at Tesco, before becoming HR Director for UK and Ireland. She made the swap from blue to green in 2011, when she joined Asda. Although Hayley’s ‘temp job’ at Tesco delayed her start at university by a few years, she now holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and a qualified neurolinguistics programming practitioner. Passionate about skills and education, Hayley has been a member of the Ambassadors Apprenticeship Network since 2007 and is a member and former chair of Business in the Community Employment & Skills Leadership team.

She was appointed Non-Executive Director to the Cabinet Office and advisor to Department of Work and Pensions in November 2017, she chairs the Asda LGBT group and is a trustee for the charity Tommy’s. Receiving her Honorary Doctorate she said, "I feel really proud – quite overwhelmed to be honest.

“My relationship with Middlesex University began as a student and over the years has developed into a trusted learning partnership. I’m so proud that many of the current and future leaders I work with have also had the benefit with the Middlesex team.”

Hayley says that she is "thrilled" at the impact the pioneering Retail Honours work-based degree programme established by Asda and Middlesex in partnership for aspiring in-store and supply chain managers has had.

"We've got a brilliant track record now" she says. "From a social mobility point of view, for individuals who didn’t get the easiest start in life or for whom when they were younger education wasn’t top of their list, to be able to work while they learn really makes a difference. I hope it’s starting to improve how retail is seen as an option".


Lyn Romeo is the Chief Social Worker for Adults at the Department of Health and Social Care and has been in that role since September 2013. Previously, Lyn worked as the Assistant Director for Adult Social Care in the London Borough of Camden. She has also worked as an inspector with the Social Services Inspectorate, as well as working in Yorkshire for over 20 years as both a field social worker and in a variety of management roles across children and adults.

Lyn qualified as a social worker after completing a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of New South Wales. Originally a hospital social worker in Australia, she came to the UK to travel and work and has had roles in many different areas of social work over the last 40 years. She is committed to sustaining university-based graduate social work qualifications and improving post qualification knowledge and professional development for social workers. She is keen to promote the role that social workers can play in utilising community development and group work approaches.

Commenting on her Award she said: “I am honoured to receive this doctorate from Middlesex, which has a long tradition of educating social workers, especially in health related areas of social work practice including mental health social work.

“I am impressed that the University is taking the opportunity to ensure that social work practice is at the heart of working alongside people and communities to promote human rights, social justice and wellbeing for individuals and communities.”

Maggie Appleton is CEO of the Royal Air Force Museum - one of the UK’s free to enter National Museums with public sites in Colindale and the West Midlands. In 2018, the London site launched a major transformation programme to mark the Centenary of the RAF with a new emphasis on storytelling and engagement.

With over 25 years’ experience in the cultural sector, Maggie is passionate about the difference that museums can make to people’s lives. Her previous roles include Chief Executive of Luton Culture, the charity which comprises the museums, arts, libraries and community centres in the town, and museum roles in Luton, Stevenage and at the Royal Armouries.

Maggie has served in public roles as a Committee Member for the Heritage Lottery Fund and as Co-Chair of the Women Leaders in Museums Network. She is currently President of the UK’s Museums Association and a member of the judging panel for the annual Museums and Heritage Awards.

In 2012 Maggie was awarded the MBE for her services to Museums and Heritage and, in the same year, was included in the Independent on Sunday’s ‘Happy List’, its annual celebration of 100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live.

Maggie has a history degree from Liverpool University and a master’s in Heritage Management from Birmingham.

Commenting on her Award, she said, “Visitors to the RAF Museum have benefitted hugely from our relationship with Middlesex University. Learning and education are the keys to a dynamic and compassionate society, creating opportunities and lifting people out of poverty and it is a privilege and a delight to be part of the Middlesex University family.”

She wished the graduating students the very best, "because the jobs they are going into will absolutely have the power to change lives.”

Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji has been President of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since March 2018 and has been a judge of the ICC since 2012. Prior to this, he was the Legal Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during which time he anchored the High Commissioner’s interventions in cases involving human rights questions. He served as principal appeals counsel for the Prosecution in the Charles Taylor Case at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and has held several posts at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including Head of Chambers and Lead Prosecution Trial Counsel.

He practiced law as a barrister before trial courts in Nigeria and Canada, and conducted appeals before the Court of Appeal for Ontario (Canada) and the Supreme Court of Canada. As adjunct professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa, Canada, Judge Eboe-Osuji taught international criminal law and has an extensive record of legal scholarship and publications, including books titled International Law and Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts, and Protecting Humanity. Judge Eboe-Osuji received his PhD degree from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and also studied at McGill University, Canada and the University of Calabar, Nigeria.

In his address to students on receiving his Award, he said: “I am deeply grateful and immensely honoured that you have considered me fit to not only receive this distinguished award, but also to share the day with you.

"Middlesex University has an enviable reputation as a place of learning where people of all backgrounds are able to show how well we can work together, with mutual respect and dignity, making wholesale strides for ourselves and for the common good".

He advised students to spare no effort to protect their mental health, while at the same time living by Nietzsche's maxim that what does not kill you makes you stronger, and by Edmund Burke's exhortation to get on and do the right thing, not wait around for others to do it first.


Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE

Neil is Chief Executive of WorldSkills UK. He is responsible for overseeing all WorldSkills UK’s activities, working closely with their board of trustees and stakeholders across the UK and internationally – in governments, employers and education – to help deliver WorldSkills’ business plan goals. Before joining WorldSkills in 2015, Neil was Deputy Director-General and Chief Operating Officer at the CBI, the UK’s premier business organisation. He worked for 12 years at the highest level of the business and government interface nationally and internationally on issues such as trade and

investment, diversity, skills and employment, public service reform and energy, climate change and infrastructure development.

Neil was also the Chief Executive of OUTstanding, a business network for LGBT leaders and their allies, and deputy chair of Stonewall, the LGBT equality charity. He holds a PhD in race equality in the workplace and was awarded his OBE for services to equality in business in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List.

He said, “It is a real honour to receive this award from Middlesex University. Over many years I have been impressed by the University’s commitment to the advancement of science and technology and its place at the forefront of combining academic teaching and technical education. I am therefore very proud that through WorldSkills UK’s long-standing partnership with the University we are working together to ensure that all students, irrespective of their background, are able to develop the confidence and world-class skills needed to help them succeed in work and life."

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