Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

An absolutely fab day for graduates

Dazzling actress Lumley among honours

Queen's University has awarded actress Joanna Lumley an Honorary Doctorate for services to the performing arts.

Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley will lend an extra touch of glamour to Queen's University graduations this afternoon when she will be awarded an honorary degree.

Presenting the glamorous star with her degree, Queen's Pro-Chancellor Rotha Johnson described her as "one of the most talented, versatile and iconic female actresses of our time".

Ms Johnston said: "In an outstanding and dazzling career spanning over 30 years Joanna has played many powerful and unforgettable roles on the small and large screen, combined with a successful career in theatre and as a writer.

"Following starring roles in a range of popular TV programmes, including 'The New Avengers' and 'Sapphire and Steel', Joanna Lumley went on to redefine the British comedy with her portrayal as Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia 'Patsy' Cocteau Stone in 'Absolutely Fabulous'. In what has been called a "pitch-perfect comic performance" Lumley proved her comic credentials."

The actress, who is awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University for services to the performing arts, won the British Comedy Award in 1993, Bafta Awards in 1993, 1995 and a Bafta Special Award in 2000. She is also a renowned human rights and animal rights campaigner and is associated with more than 50 charities.

Ms Johnston said: "Joanna Lumley, icon of stage and screen, widely recognised as an actress of enormous range, distinction and exceptional talent as well as a tireless and selfless campaigner is an outstanding role model for all women."

Joanna has strong links to Northern Ireland. Her husband, Stephen Barlow, was the artistic director of Opera Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Joanna has retained her connection, visiting often and supporting local campaigning and charity work.

She recently visited Belfast in support of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society conservation work and opened the Peace for Peace Movement Conference at the Waterfront Hall. She was awarded the OBE in 1995.

Meanwhile, the Director of Admissions at Queen's, Keith Steele, is used to attending graduations as he is a member of the platform party that presides over graduation week.

Today he will take on another role — that of 'doting dad'.

Keith's daughter, Rosie Steele is a medical student, who won a bursary from The Institute of Medical Ethics (UK) to allow her to compare attitudes to abortion between students at the University of Oslo and Queen's.

She presented her work at the Irish National Educators conference in the College of Surgeons in Dublin earlier this year and graduates with a Bachelor of Medicine today.

Also accompanying Rosie to her graduation today will be her mother, brother and grandfather.

Yesterday, two of Northern Ireland's best-known clergymen — the Rev Harold Good and Father Alec Reid — who played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process, were honoured by Queen's.

The two churchmen — who acted as witnesses for the decommissioning of IRA weapons — were awarded honorary Doctorates of the University for services to the community.

They also received honorary degrees from the University of Ulster this week.

This week, the university also named the presenter of the BBC's popular 'Big Cat Diary' series, Jonathan Scott, and inspirational singer and music student Marcella Walsh as Queen's University Graduate and Student of the Year.

Jonathan, who graduated from Queen's in Zoology in 1972, is best-known for his BBC Wildlife documentaries and has also co-presented a wildlife series in the United States as well as written and illustrated a number of books.

Student of the Year Marcella, from Cliftonville Road in Belfast, was described by Students' Union President Ciarnan Helferty as "an inspiration to others".

One of the best young sopranos of her generation, with a repertoire from classical to Irish traditional, jazz and modern music. Marcella is current President of Queen's Music Society.

The club, which she helped increase from 120 to over 350 members, recently won the 'Most Improved Society' title at Queen's. She also developed a philanthropic aspect to the society in the guise of an educational bursary for its best performer of the year.

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