Universities celebrate the great and the good

THIS week marks the 40th anniversary of one of the important events in the recent history of the North-East.

THIS week marks the 40th anniversary of one of the important events in the recent history of the North-East.

In November 1967, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King spent 24 hours in Britain, but part of that hectic visit saw the inspirational figure coming to Newcastle University to receive an honorary degree.

Unusually for the time, Dr King was invited to give an acceptance speech for what would be the only honour given to him by a UK university in his tragically short life.

He said: “Words are certainly inadequate for me to express my deep and genuine appreciation to the University of Newcastle for honouring me in such a significant way.”

He added: “There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war and the things that I have been trying to do have been to deal forthrightly and in depth with these great and grave problems that pervade our world.”

Barely five months later, the university found itself organising a memorial service following Dr King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

Many figures on the local, national and international stage have followed Dr King in receiving honorary degrees from the North-East’s five universities over the years, and The Journal has been there to photograph many of them.

Political figures like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been among those honoured, as have Royals including the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles and the Queen Mother.

Figures from the world of entertainment who have received awards include singers Kiri Te Kanawa and Harry Belafonte and actors Glenda Jackson and Richard Griffiths.

Local sports heroes Alan Shearer, Sir Bobby Robson and Jonny Wilkinson have been honoured, while Sting, Brendan Foster and Mark Knopfler are among a select bunch to receive honorary degrees from two separate institutions.

When former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev was honoured by Durham University in 1995, he could not fit a trip to the region into his busy schedule.

Instead he received his award from then university chancellor Lord Ustinov in Athens.

To mark the university’s 175th anniversary, we have gone into our archives to bring you a selection of pictures from the ceremonies.

There are more pictures on our website, www.journallive.co.uk . To buy copies of pictures taken by our photographers go to www.journalive.co . uk/buyaphoto or telephone (0191) 201-6001.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer