Award-winning playwright and marketing expert awarded honours from University of Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 September 2018

Jez Butterworth. Picture: University of Hertfordshire

Jez Butterworth. Picture: University of Hertfordshire


An award-winning playwright, a famous soprano and a Holocaust educator were awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Hertfordshire.

David Pearson. Picture: University of HertfordshireDavid Pearson. Picture: University of Hertfordshire

Jeremy ‘Jez’ Butterworth, who is a playwright, screenwriter and film director, was awarded with a Doctor of Letters at St Albans Abbey on Friday, September 7.

He was born and brought up in St Albans, and his first play, Mojo, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1995, when Jez was only 25.

His most recent play, The Ferryman, focuses on events surrounding the deaths of IRA hunger strikers, and opened at the Royal Court Theatre in April 2017. It won the 2018 Olivier Award for best play and became the fastest-selling play in the theatre’s history.
He said: I’m very proud of this honour, and especially to receive it in my home city.”

Sarah Brightman, the world’s biggest-selling soprano, was awarded a Doctor of Arts on Monday, September 10 for her contribution to music and theatre.

Dame Helen Hyde. Picture: University of HertfordshireDame Helen Hyde. Picture: University of Hertfordshire

Sarah, who is known for her three-octave range, recently performed in the sold-out 30th anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Her duet with Andrea Bocelli of ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ sold 12 million copies worldwide, and she is the only artist to have simultaneously topped Billboard’s dance and classical music charts.

In addition to her musical career, Sarah is an advocate of empowering girls and women in science and technology to help close the gender gap in STEM fields, establishing the Brightman STEM Scholarship Programme.

She will be going on tour in November following the release of her album ‘HYMN’ this autumn, and in 2020 will appear on a panel of judges on the first ever musical theatre casting TV show in China, searching for the first Chinese Phantom.

She said: “It is with extreme gratitude that I accept this Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in the town where I grew up that is very dear to me.”

Sarah Brightman with Richard Beazley. Picture: University of HertfordshireSarah Brightman with Richard Beazley. Picture: University of Hertfordshire

Harpenden resident David Pearson was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters at the ceremony in recognition of his contribution to the marketing industry.

He became managing director of Sony UK Consumer Products in 1988, and later became managing director for all of Sony UK. After leaving Sony he joined the Pentland Group to look after high-profile sports brands Speedo, Ellesse and Lacoste. In 2016 David was named Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketers.

He said: “I feel both proud and humble at the same time to receive this award for services to marketing.”

On Saturday, September 8, Dame Helen Hyde DBE received a Doctor of Education for her contribution to national education, Holocaust education and the promotion of diversity.

Ken Follett. Picture: University of HertfordshireKen Follett. Picture: University of Hertfordshire

After nearly 30 years as headteacher at Watford Grammar School for Girls, Helen co-founded Refugees to Recovery, a charity which settles refugees into the Watford area and in refugee camps in Europe.

Helen also shares her family’s story in her role as a trained Holocaust educator and fellow of the Imperial War Museum, and became the first chair of the Holocaust Commission Education Commitee in 2016.

She said: “I feel honoured and humbled by this award. It celebrates the work I have done but more importantly it spurs me on to continue to try to make a difference, to take action to help create a better tomorrow and to help those less fortunate than me, regardless of race, colour or religion.”

Knebworth author Ken Follett was awarded a Doctor of Letters on Tuesday, September 11 for his contribution to literature and the promotion of literacy.

More than 160 million copies of Ken’s 31 books have been sold worldwide. He published his first novel ‘The Big Needle’ in 1974 under the name Simon Myles, and his WWII thriller ‘The Eye of the Needle’ became a bestseller after its publication in 1978.

This year Ken was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was made a CBE for his services to literature and charity.

He said: “I am proud to receive this honour from the University of Hertfordshire, the county that has been my home for over 20 years.

“Reading is something that should be accessible to all and I thoroughly enjoy working with some fantastic local and national organisations to help make that a reality.”

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