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University of Suffolk graduates mix with the stars as they celebrate degree success

PUBLISHED: 22:29 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:32 18 October 2017

It was a day of excitement and celebration for University of Suffolk students. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

It was a day of excitement and celebration for University of Suffolk students. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

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The first graduates of the University of Suffolk since it secured independence status last year gathered in Ipswich today to celebrate years of hard work.

Robin Windsor has been awarded an Honourary Degree from the University of Suffolk.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Robin Windsor has been awarded an Honourary Degree from the University of Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Hundreds of students and established figures, such as Ipswich’s West End dancing star Robin Windsor and award winning journalist and broadcaster Bill Turnbull, donned caps and robes at the first of two graduation days at the Corn Exchange in the town centre.

Among them was Kayleigh Norris, who overcame a rare kind cancer while studying for her degree in special education needs and disability studies.

The 28-year-old from Felixstowe was diagnosed with an Angiosarcoma which affects bone and soft tissue, in 2010.

She launched a website sharing how she lives a healthy and active lifestyle despite her illness, with the aim of celebrating the beauty of everyday life.

Kayleigh, who is now working for MyGO helping 16-24 year olds into employment or education, said of her university experience: “It has been amazing, life changing.

“I feel so proud. I’ve never been very academic but my time at the university has helped me to flourish and they treat you as an individual. It has been life-changing in such a positive way.”

Final touches are made to the graduates outfits.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Final touches are made to the graduates outfits. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More than 1,300 graduates from the university, first established as University Campus Suffolk in 2007 as a satellite of the universities of East Anglia (UEA) and Essex, will be conferred at ceremonies in Ipswich this week.

Some argued the creation of the University of Suffolk on August 1, 2016, realised Cardinal Wolsey’s 500-year-old dream of establishing a university in the county.

Strictly star Robin Windsor, who was awarded an honorary doctorate, said it was “very special” to be recognised for doing something you love.

“I am very excited and honoured to have be given this award,” he added.

“I do what I love every day and to be recognised for that is absolutely amazing.

Coming from Suffolk, being awarded this from the University of Suffolk is obviously very special.”

Friends celebrate their success.  L-R Elliott Jones, Cameron Searle, Ameen Abumahfouz, Shebin Chaliyath, Aimi Wilder and Emma Lawrence.   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Friends celebrate their success. L-R Elliott Jones, Cameron Searle, Ameen Abumahfouz, Shebin Chaliyath, Aimi Wilder and Emma Lawrence. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Celebrated tenor soloist Richard Edgar-Wilson, who has enjoyed a three-decade career worldwide, attended Ipswich School before reading History at Cambridge University and gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Music.

He was also given an honorary doctorate.

He said: “When you grow up in a town and feel part of the county – my family has been based in Suffolk for 250/300 years – to be rooted in a place which then honours you is a huge thrill.

“This is the first year that there are graduates officially from the University of Suffolk, and to be part of that is amazing.

“When I was a child, I think you always felt that you had to go out of Suffolk to both find a career but also to be celebrated. Somehow, it wasn’t something Suffolk did.

“Now, we have a university based in Suffolk that can bring together academics, finance, and expertise in lots of fields, not only to build skills, but also to act as a focus for the future of Suffolk.”

Broadcaster Bill Turnbull who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Suffolk. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY Broadcaster Bill Turnbull who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Suffolk. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

He has performed in recent Hollywood blockbusters, such as The Hobbit and Harry Potter and James Bond films.

Suffolk is a great place for respected journalist Bill Turnbull to keep his beloved bees – and the beer is wonderful, said the man himself as he picked up his second honorary doctorate.

The former BBC Breakfast presenter, who moved to Suffolk 18 months ago, said he feels he does not deserve the doctorate he was awarded by the University of Suffolk as he is still a “new boy”.

But he was quick to give students a little bit of advice about life by encouraging them to pursue a job they love, something that has kept him in front of the camera and on the airwaves for more than four decades.

He said: “I was surprised and honoured (to receive the degree) as we only moved here 18 months ago so I am still a new boy, I’ve hardly got here and now I’ve been given this great award so I’m overwhelmed by it really.

“I’m not sure I really deserve it for services to Suffolk yet but I suppose 40 years in journalism, in broadcasting, is what I’m going to claim it for rather than the other half.

Richard Lister OBE getting gowned up before the ceremony.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Richard Lister OBE getting gowned up before the ceremony. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Suffolk is a wonderful county and I am very much enjoying it.

“It’s got beautiful scenery – we live not far from the sea – the people are wonderful, straightforward, unpretentious and friendly, and the beer is wonderful.”

WATCH: Strictly Star Robin Windsor ‘excited and honoured’ to receive honorary degree from University of Suffolk

He added: “The great thing about being in Suffolk with the bees is I’ve got a larger garden to put them in but also we’re surrounded by vast farm fields and they’ve had wonderful crops particularly tic bean crops to get the nectar off.

“They’re like multi-storey car parks full of nectar and pollen so they’re really enjoying it and we’ve done well with the honey this year.

“I’ve tried to think of some life advice I can give the students and I think in a nutshell it’s this which is find something you want to do that you enjoy doing even if it’s not very well paid.

“If you like what you are doing you will feel so much more of an accomplishment in doing it.

Aimi Wilder has a photo before her ceremony.   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Aimi Wilder has a photo before her ceremony. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“What you have to do to succeed is just work a little bit harder than everybody else.

“If you can do those things, and have a little bit of luck, you’ll be successful.”

Feminist writer Laura Bates BEM, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, was also awarded an honorary doctorate. The project is an ever-increasing online collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality from over 25 countries worldwide.

She said: “I feel really honoured and privileged to accept the award, not only on behalf of myself but also the hundreds of thousands of courageous women and girls who have lent a voice to my project who have spoken out about sexual harassment and abuse to try and raise awareness and change things.

“The project started very simply as a website which collected people’s experiences of any kind of gender inequality with a hope that we could shine a light on how pervasive the problem was.

“But what I never anticipated was that in just three years, over 100,000 people raised their voice and shared their stories, which meant we were able to start using those stories with universities, schools, businesses, governments, and police forces to create real concrete change on the ground.

“I really hope we are starting to see a sea change in attitudes towards these issues, but I think this last week’s events (sexual assault allegations denied by Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein) more than anything else shows just how far we still have to go and how significant the problem still is.”

The graduation ceremonies will continue tomorrow.

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