THE great and good of Bolton were honoured on the first day of three days of graduation celebrations.
Sean Harriss, chief executive of Bolton Council, was made a doctor of public administration for outstanding contribution to the community, while acclaimed consultant ophthalmic surgeon Simon Kelly, from the Royal Bolton Hospital, was made a doctor once again for outstanding contribution to health and ophthalmology.
Local names in business and law were recognised for their achievements as they received honorary degrees from the University of Bolton at Victoria Hall.
Imran Akram, chief executive of asons solicitors, was awarded doctor of business administration for outstanding contribution to the legal profession.
Mr Harriss said: "I am very excited at being award an honorary doctorate, and slightly nervous.
“I have been looking forward to the day - I felt it was a great honour and it is nice that the council is recognised by the university for what it does.”
Mr Kelly said: “I have been working in Bolton since 1991. Although it is not a university or teaching hospital, we are working to be more closely involved with the University of Bolton.
“I am very honoured to have received this award from the university in the town I work and this is a day of celebration for the students - it is about them.”
Mr Akram used to work as a taxi driver before founding Asons with brother Kamran.
He said: “Having an institution like the university recognise your achievements is a real honour, especially when you are not from an academic background.
"This degree is for anyone else out there like me — it proves it can be done.”
His honour Judge Timothy Clayson, Honorary Recorder of Bolton, who was appointed the most senior position in Bolton’s judiciary in 2012, received a doctor of laws for outstanding contribution to the legal profession.
He said: “It’s a great privilege to be awarded the degree. It reflects the increasingly strong link that has been developed between the court and the university.”
Sylvia Kay, who worked at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and is now a trustee for the students’ union, picked up a doctor of laws for outstanding contribution to the university and its governance.
She said: “I was a governor for nine years at the university and still a trustee at the union so this means a lot to me.
"I have seen the university develop over the last 10 years and I am proud of what it has become.”
Nicola Shindler, founder of Red Production Company, has made waves producing a number of dramas for ITV, Sky and Channel 4 including three-part drama Prey, written by Horwich-born director Chris Lunt.
Adrian Brooks, the founder of Backstage Academy, who has worked with hit musicians including Coldplay, and Jay-Z received a doctor of business administration for outstanding contribution to business and entertainment.
He encouraged students to do what they loved and do it a lot.
“It is great to be here, but I am a little nervous dressed in the gown. It is a great honour.”
Receiving a doctor of letters for outstanding contribution to broadcasting, she said: “It’s great to be appreciated by such a fantastic institution and recognised by the local community.”
They were joined by hundreds of students from the university’s business, accountancy and law schools.
Dad-of-one Ranil Ratnayake, aged 39, made a trip from Dubai with his wife and son to pick up his MBA, which he gained online.
He said: “I wanted a British degree because it is recognised all over the world.”
Rachael Gibb, aged 21, graduated with a 2:1 in LLB Law.
She said: “I’m going to be doing my LPC (legal practice course) next year and then hope to work in a solicitors.”
Abigail Finneran, aged 21, received a 2:1 in business management with HR.
She said: “I am really pleased — I just need a job now.”
Vice chancellor Dr George Holmes said: “It was the best ever start to the graduation ceremonies with the installation of the chancellor ceremony on Tuesday.
“When we appointed Baroness Morris we had arrived and now with the appointment of Sir Ernest Ryder we are really going places — and what a symbol of town and gown there was, were we in Oxford or Bolton?”
He added: “I think as the reputation of the university continues to grow the distinction of our honorary doctorates becomes more and more distinguished.”
Dr Holmes concluded: “The most special people in the hall are those who are graduation, and we are there to ornament them.”