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More stars from the worlds of research, business, and entertainment – including a Hollywood actor – have been recognised with honorary degrees from the University of Leicester.

Leicestershire-born actor Richard Armitage, named after King Richard III, who holds a special place in the university’s story, was among six accomplished individuals to be conferred awards alongside Leicester graduates this week. Their honours follow a trio of awards last week.

Picture: University of Leicester

Armitage, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and star of TV and film including a role in Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of The Hobbit, said: “I am honoured to have been selected as a recipient of this degree, Leicester is my home town and it gives me enormous pleasure to return to celebrate the achievements of this year’s graduates. I have so much to thank the City of Leicester and its educational institutions for, and this is an opportunity for me to do that.”

Researchers from both physical and social science were also recognised, with Ethiopian botanist Professor Sebsebe Demissew named a Doctor of Science, with sociologist and education rights campaigner Professor Diane Reay becoming a Doctor of Letters.

Entrepreneurs Ian Mattioli MBE and Jimmy Mayer were both conferred a Doctorate of Laws for successful business careers and a history of philanthropy.

Jimmy Mayer is a leading Colombian manufacturing entrepreneur who helped to form the Genesis Foundation – recently merged with United Way – with the objective of creating a more inclusive society for Colombian children through improved education.

He has also donated generously to Leicester research, led by Professor Jonathan Barratt, into a rare kidney condition.

“In receiving this degree I am grateful, but humbled,” he said. “My greatest satisfaction is that of seeing the progress that Professor Barratt and his team are making in the ongoing quest to defeat IgA nephropathy. I am especially gratified to see that in this regard, his lab is now one of the foremost in the world.”

There was also an emotional return to the city for Leicester graduate Constance Ejuma, named a Doctor of Letters, for an award-winning career as a theatre, film and TV actor and producer.

Leicester’s nine honorary degrees were awarded as almost 7,000 undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students collected their honours this week, in the first summer graduations at the University for three years.

For more information on the University of Leicester graduation celebrations, visit

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