Local heroes and national champions are to receive Staffordshire University’s highest honour during a week of Awards Ceremonies to celebrate the graduation of thousands of students.

A much-loved teacher who died after contracting Covid is among the inspirational educators to be recognised with an honorary degree at Staffordshire University’s summer Awards ceremonies in July. Gareth Jones – former Principal at Ormiston Meridian Academy and chair of the Stoke-on-Trent English Excellence Hub – is recognised for the positive impact he had on the lives of many thousands of pupils during a career spanning more than 40 years.

His long-standing colleague and close friend Mark Stanyer, who is Regional Executive Principal for Ormiston Academies Trust and a board member of Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area, is also being honoured for his outstanding contribution to education which has previously been recognised with a prestigious National Leader in Education Award.

The University is also recognising the contribution of its former Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL, who is co-chair of Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area which aims to level up opportunities for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent. All will receive the Award of honorary Doctor of Letters.

The bestowal of honorary degrees recognises the achievements of people who share the University’s values.

Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: “The awarding of honorary degrees – the University’s highest honour – is an important part of our Awards Ceremonies and we are delighted to be recognising our local heroes and high achievers who are working to raise standards, create opportunities and make our society fairer, more inclusive and safer.

“These are all inspirational people with considerable experiences and great words of wisdom to offer our graduating Class of 2022 as they reflect on their own achievements and the positive impact they can make on the lives of others.”

Among the line-up are paralympic medal-winning athlete Ian Marsden, a graduate of Staffordshire University, and Stephanie Talbot, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Alice Charity which last year supported 5000 families with financial and community support. Stephanie has twice graduated from Staffordshire University, most recently with a Masters in Business Administration.

As the increasing cost of living continues to impact on families and individuals, the University will also be honouring author and social scientist Barry Knight for his exceptional work in the field of poverty research and his support for the University’s  work around poverty and hardship .

Stafford born Anu “Neil” Basu QPM, who is Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service and former head of Counter Terrorism for the UK, will receive the Award of Doctor of Laws for his work in policing which notably has included the investigation of the Russian military following the Salisbury poisonings.

Also receiving the award of Honorary Doctor of Laws is Solicitor-Advocate Danny Smith, a proud graduate of Staffordshire University’s Law and Legal Practice Course degrees, who has continued to support the University on its Development Board, with fundraising and guest lecturing.

Retired Cheshire digital technology entrepreneur Robert Barrow and former Chair of the University’s Board of Governors David Gage MBE DL David Gage, who were announced last year, will also be coming to receive their honorary awards during the ceremonies which take place between Friday 15 July to Thursday 21 July.

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