Honorary Degrees awarded during December graduations



This week has seen more than 1,880 students celebrate their graduations.

As well as our students graduating, we have awarded seven honorary degrees at ceremonies held in the Oriam at the University’s Edinburgh campus.

Our first honorary degree was awarded on Saturday, December 4 to John Robertson Wright in recognition of his contribution to building financial service links from Scotland to the Middle East, and beyond, and his support for Heriot-Watt University and higher education generally.

John Wright is a Commercial Banker with a strong International background. Since becoming a visiting Professor, Wright has engaged in an extensive Lecture Programme at home, in The Gulf and elsewhere about Leadership and Change and Leadership in the Implementation of Strategy.  He also in his capacity as a Director and Chairman of several companies, established and directed a “Moving On” Programme which develops the latent Leadership capabilities in Executive Teams.

On Tuesday, December 7, James Michael Shaw was awarded his honorary degree in recognition of his contribution to promotion of sustainable living in the built environment and the promotion of nature-based solutions to environmental remediation.

Michael Shaw is the Director of Biomatrix Water Solutions Ltd and his fields are ecological engineering and industrial R & D. He is an Honorary Professor in the EGIS faculty of Heriot-Watt University and the former long-term Chair of Trustees of the Findhorn Foundation. He is a director of Biomatrix Water (Nature Based Solutions - NBS), Farm Hand (smart irrigation in India in cooperation with HWU) and Findhorn Innovation Research and Education CIC (R & D in energy management and low-carbon systems).

Emeritus Prof Oliver Penrose and Neil Tocher were awarded their honorary degrees on Wednesday, December 8.  Emeritus Professor Penrose for recognition of his long service to the University and to his subject, and of his worldwide renown as a versatile, original, and creative mathematical scientist and Mr Tocher in recognition of his contributions to entrepreneurship, product design and engineering.

Emeritus Prof Oliver Penrose was a Professor of Mathematics at Heriot-Watt University from 1986 until his retirement in 1994. Before that he spent 17 years at the Open University. He is still active in research and now holds the title Professor Emeritus.

His principal research interest is in Statistical Mechanics, both equilibrium and non-equilibrium, and in related topics such as the kinetics of phase transitions in metals and the physical chemistry of surfactants; he makes occasional forays into more metaphysical areas such as the direction of time and the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Neil is a serial technology entrepreneur and John Logie Baird award winner for innovation.

He has over 25 years’ experience developing immersive media, working closely with the many of the world's big tech companies to pioneer the development and deployment of disruptive, 'edge-to-cloud' technology with automatic processing for AR and Last Mile technologies at global scale. 

Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia received her degree on Thursday, December 9th in recognition of her outstanding contribution to financial services in the United Kingdom and her role in proactively addressing gender inequality.

Dame Jayne-Anne is the Lead Non-Executive at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), chairs the HMRC Board, and is the Founder and Executive Chair of Snoop. 

Booker Prize Winner Douglas Stuart collected his Honorary Degree from on Friday, December 10 alongside Robin Watson.

The celebrated author was selected for the honour in recognition of his successful career in fashion, an industry he entered after leaving Heriot-Watt, and for his immense contribution to literature.

The Glaswegian graduated from the University with a BA Honours in Textiles in 1998 and was awarded the coveted Watt Club Medal for his academic achievement.

Robin Watson received his honorary degree in recognition of his services to engineering and business, leading the Wood Group to becoming a leading world engineering company with over 60,000 employees and transforming the business from being completely reliant on North Sea oil to other sectors and energies.

A total of 12 graduation ceremonies were held at the University between Saturday, December 4 and Friday, December 10 marking the academic achievement of students from the School of Social Sciences, the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society, the School of Textiles & Design, and the School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences.

This year’s ceremonies come as the University celebrates its 200th anniversary of its founding in Scotland. To celebrate this milestone there is an extensive programme of events and debates planned across Heriot-Watt’s campuses, and online, offering something for everyone to take part in and enjoy.


Susan Kerr