University of Leicester honours distinguished figures in the arts

Posted by ap507 at Jan 21, 2015 01:00 PM |
Actor and a former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to receive honorary degrees on Friday 23 January

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office 21 January

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images.

An award-winning theatrical actor and the former Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language, will be honoured at the University of Leicester’s Degree Ceremonies on 23 January.

The University will award honorary degrees to two distinguished personalities from public life alongside graduating students of the University of Leicester at De Montfort Hall on 22 January and 23 January.

Mr John Simpson, OBE, who retired as editor of the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the 10am ceremony on Friday 23 January. His family has been connected to the University of Leicester since its foundation when his grandfather’s cousin, Harry Simpson Gee, became one of the University’s original benefactors.

Theatre and television actor Greg Hicks will be conferred with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the 4pm ceremony on Friday 23 January. Born and educated in Leicester, he is a prolific theatre actor and won the 2003 London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (Drama) for Best Shakespearian Performance for his portrayal of the title role in Coriolanus.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are delighted that the University is able to award honorary degrees to two candidates who are highly successful in their fields, both of whom have long-standing connections with Leicester.

“It is important for us to award honorary degrees to recipients who are significant in their field and these candidates are no exception. This is a valuable opportunity for our graduates to see how they can aspire to be future leaders in their chosen field.”

Honorand biographies and quotes:

John Simpson, OBE – Doctor of Letters – Friday 23 January, 10am

John Simpson was born in Cheltenham and attended Dean Close School. He gained a BA degree in English Literature from the University of York and a MA degree in Medieval Studies from the University of Reading before joining  the editorial staff of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1976 to work on the Supplement to the OED. He was Co-Editor of the Second Edition of the OED, published in 1989, and in 1993 was appointed Chief Editor, a position he held until his retirement in October 2013. During his tenure he led the first comprehensive revision of the OED and oversaw the introduction of its online version. He also edited the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (1982) and co-edited the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (1992). He wrote introductions to Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall (1604), B.E.'s Dictionary of the Canting Crew (1699), Francis Grose's Popular Superstitions (1787), and James Redding Ware's Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase (1909), published by the Bodleian Library. He co-edits James Joyce Online Notes, a forum for the publication of documentary evidence about the people, words and cultural references in James Joyce's fiction.  He is a member of the English Faculty at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford.  He is a member of the Philological Society and a founder member of the European Federation of National Institutions for Language; he has been a member of the Executive Committee of the latter since 2003. In an international context, he has acted as adviser to a number of national dictionaries, and in 1999 he was awarded an honorary degree by the Australian National University for his ‘distinguished creative achievement as a scholar in lexicography’. He was appointed OBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to literature.

Quote: “I’m delighted to receive this degree from the University of Leicester for both professional and personal reasons. Firstly, it’s rare for dictionary editors to be honoured in this way, and the award testifies to the high esteem in which the Oxford English Dictionary is held by colleagues in the academic world. But more significant to me personally is the fact that I have a family connection to the University’s foundation through Harry Simpson Gee, my grandfather’s cousin. He was Chairman of Stead & Simpson, the shoe manufacturing company which was founded by my great-grandfather, and was a highly successful businessman who became one of the University’s original benefactors. In 1924 he left £20,000 to the University College of Leicester in his will, the equivalent today of over £6.5 million. His son, Percy Gee, went on to serve the University for over forty years as Chairman of the University Council and as the University’s first Pro-Chancellor, and gave his name to the Percy Gee Building. I would therefore like to thank the Vice-Chancellor and his colleagues not only for the honour they have bestowed on me, but also for allowing me to rebuild a connection with a strand of my family’s history.”

Greg Hicks - Doctor of Letters - Friday 23 January, 4pm

Greg Hicks was born in Leicester and educated at Stoneygate Preparatory School and Oakham School.  He undertook his theatrical training at the Rose Bruford College in Kent.  He has been a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company since 1976, when he was mentored by Sir Peter Hall.  His most recent performances with the RSC have included Julius Caesar (2001) as Brutus, The Merry Wives of Windsor (2002) as Dr Caius, Coriolanus (2002) as Coriolanus, Hamlet (2004) as Ghost/Player King/Gravedigger, Macbeth (2004) as Macbeth, Julius Caesar (2009) as Julius Caesar, The Winter's Tale (2009) as Leontes, King Lear (2010) as King Lear, Hamlet (2013) as Claudius/Ghost and All's Well That Ends Well (2013) as the King of France.  His prolific theatre career also includes Acastos (1980), The Romans in Britain (1980), The Orestia (1982) and Bacchai (2003) at the National Theatre.  His film and tv performances include Northanger Abbey (TV 1986), Fortunes of War (TV 1987), Bergerac (TV), Maigret (TV 1992), Marple: Sleeping Murder (TV 2006), Tantalus: Behind the Mask (2001), Waking the Dead (TV 2007), Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), The Bible (TV 2013), Burton and Taylor (2013) and Son of God (2014). Other notable performance include Messiah at the Old Vic (2002) as Christ, Missing Persons: Four Tragedies and Roy Keane by Colin Teevan at the Jermyn Street Theatre (2006) as various characters, Tamburlaine at the Barbican (2005) as Tamburlaine, An Enemy of the People at the Arcola Theatre (2008) as Dr Thomas Stockmann and In Blood: The Bacchae at the Arcola Theatre (2009). He was nominated for a 2004 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in the category ‘Best Actor of 2003’ for his performance in Coriolanus performed by the RSC at the Old Vic, and was awarded the 2003 London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (Drama) for Best Shakespearian Performance in the same role.

Quote: "Leicester was the birthplace of my adventures in the glorious world of classical and contemporary theatre. In the last 40 years I have never performed here. To receive this award is a deep and resonant homecoming."

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