Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University awards honorary degree to singer Katie Melua

Melua joins list of star names to be honoured by universities

By Joanne Fleming

Singer Katie Melua just couldn't hide her delight at receiving an honorary degree from Queen's University.

The smiling 29-year-old star threw her mortarboard in the air after becoming Belfast's latest Doctor of Letters, and said she had been inspired by the other graduates at her ceremony.

Katie is just one of the famous faces receiving honours this week alongside thousands of students at Northern Ireland's two universities.

Graduation season kicked off last week, but the celebrations will continue for thousands more students over the next few days at Queen's and the University of Ulster.

Another leading lady from the world of entertainment set to be hailed for her contribution to the arts is Touched By An Angel star Roma Downey.

The 54-year-old Emmy-nominated actress and producer from Londonderry is to be made an honorary Doctor of Fine Art for her outstanding contribution to acting and philanthropy.

Roma – now the second richest woman from Northern Ireland – will receive her scroll from the University of Ulster at Magee in a ceremony at Derry's Millennium Forum.

From humble beginnings in the city's Bogside, Roma first came to international attention in the 1991 role of Jacqueline Kennedy in the US mini-series A Woman Named Jackie.

She is best known as Monica in US show Touched By An Angel, which ran from 1994 to 2003. Roma was nominated twice for an Emmy and once for a Golden Globe for playing the angel.

More recently, she was behind epic blockbuster TV series The Bible, in which she played the role of Mary.

Ahead of today's ceremony, Roma tweeted a photograph of herself at The Playhouse in Derry on Saturday, where there was a special showing of Son of God –her big screen adaptation of The Bible – in aid of the Foyle Hospice.

Other well-known faces honoured by Northern Ireland's two universities this summer include Belfast actor Ciaran Hinds, Apprentice star Nick Hewer, Irish rugby's Brian O'Driscoll and champion jockey AP McCoy.

Katie Melua, who spent part of her childhood in Belfast, seemed particularly pleased with her honour.

"I consider Belfast a city very close to my heart and to be recognised in this way in the field of music is phenomenal," she said.

Tweeting after the ceremony, Katie said: "I felt so inspired by the Graduates thinking of all the phenomenal potential in the room."

And with a picture of the degree itself, she said: "Here is the degree! Always wished I had gone to U ni, now nearly made up for it!"

The singer was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia but moved to Belfast at the age of eight.

She lived in the city for six years while her father worked as a doctor in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

She rose to fame at the age of 19 with the hit single The Closest Thing To Crazy.

Since then she has recorded five more studio albums and performed for the Queen and Nelson Mandela.

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