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Leading Bradford figures among Honorary Graduates


The University of Bradford will honour five national and international figures with honorary degrees and fellowships at its forthcoming graduation ceremonies.

The ceremonies take place on Wednesday and Thursday, November 30 and December 1, in the Great Hall of the city campus, where Chancellor Kate Swann will present the honorary degrees.

Receiving honorary degrees from the University will be:

Benson Taylor - Doctor of the University

Bradford-born Benson Taylor is an accomplished composer and producer. A musical alumnus of the University of California, Benson now operates out of his UK-based studios.

He has composed scores for a range of film, television and video game productions, and won ‘Best Original Music’ at the 2014 Monaco International Film Festival for his emotional score to Kate Lane’s ‘Fear of Water’. He has collaborated with artists including Temples, Bat for Lashes, CeeLo Green and Lulu.

At 26 years old, Benson was one of the founding members of the Emmaus Homeless project in Bradford, established to develop St Mary’s Church into a home and working environment for the homeless. Benson is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Cambodian Children’s Trust in Battambang, works internationally with the United Nations World Food Programme and is Patron of the Halifax-based charity Music and the Deaf.

Geraldine Howley, Group Chief Executive, Incommunities – Doctor of the University

Geraldine Howley is the Group Chief Executive of Incommunities, one of the largest social housing providers in the Yorkshire and Humber region, with nearly 22,600 homes for rent and almost 1,000 leasehold properties.

Geraldine started as a temporary housing receptionist over 30 years ago and has gone on to build a successful and rewarding career. Since 2003 she has led an organisation which has invested over £400 million modernising and delivering new homes and transforming neighbourhoods.

Geraldine is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a Chartered Surveyor. In May 2016 she was appointed as a Vice Chair of the Governing Board of the Chartered Institute of Housing following her CIH Presidential year.

Geraldine recently won a National Landmark Achievement Award for her work in housing and supporting young people. She co-founded the GEM Programme, which builds successful careers in the sector for graduates.

Locally, Geraldine is a member of the Bradford District Partnership, Chair of the National Housing Federation Yorkshire and Humber Chief Executive Forum and Council Member of the Yorkshire and Humber CBI.

Ash Soni OBE – Doctor of Health

Ash graduated from the Portsmouth School of Pharmacy in 1983, opened his own pharmacy and joined the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Local Pharmaceutical Committee. He has since taken up a range of high profile roles, including Clinical Network Lead for NHS Lambeth and Chairman of the National Pharmacy Association Board of Management.

He was part of the group examining the introduction of independent prescribing by pharmacists in 2006, and, following the launch of the curriculum, qualified as an independent prescriber himself. In 2011 Ash was appointed to the NHS Future Forum, reviewing the proposed Health and Social Care Bill. He also jointly led the work stream on the role in the Public Health in the NHS, and was a member of the Expert Advisory Board reviewing the NHS constitution.

Ash is a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Honorary Fellow of the UCL School of Pharmacy. He was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list 2014 for services to community pharmacy and the NHS, and served as President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society from 2014-2016.

Neil Hunt – Doctor of Health

Neil joined the Royal College of General Practitioners as Chief Executive in January 2011. Prior to his appointment at the College he was Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, where he led an impressive modernisation, developing new services, raising the public profile of the organisation, and rapidly growing its resource base.

He had notable success in lobbying government and chaired the advisory group that led to the first National Dementia Strategy for England.

Prior to this he worked in the strategy units at both the Home Office and the Department Of Education, held the position of Director of Child Protection at NSPCC and worked in various roles within social services.

He is a graduate of the University of Sussex and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Receiving an Honorary Fellowship will be:

Helen Hirst – Honorary Fellowship

Helen is Chief Officer of Bradford City, Bradford Districts and Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Helen has worked in the NHS in Bradford for 22 years, with her last role being Deputy Chief Executive for Bradford and Airedale Teaching Primary Care Trust.

In 2010 she undertook a secondment with the Department of Health as a Programme Director for Primary Care to support the health reforms and the establishment of the NHS Commissioning Board.

In addition to her current role she has also provided interim support to NHS England as Director of CCG Development, and to the Vale of York CCG as Accountable Officer.

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