SPORTING success and acting glory were celebrated at the ceremony in which Martine McCutcheon and Chris Eagles took centre stage.

A record number of honorary graduates were awarded to mark the special celebratory year for the University of Bolton, which commemorates 190 years since its origins at Bolton Mechanics’ Institute.

The actress and footballer were two of 19 “outstanding individuals“ honoured with a doctorate celebrating every decade in the university’s history.

Martine was honoured with a doctor of arts for services to entertainment.

The star of Love Actually, said she was excited to receive the award.

She said: “I am extremely honoured. I’m overwhelmed and thrilled to bits.

“First and foremost this is about the students. I think the university has something about it. It is current, it has great ideas, and it does not matter what your background is, you can be what ever you want to be.

“I was in shock for about a week when they told me. I am thrilled to be recognised for my work. I love what I do and that’s the message to students, to do what you love.”

The award honours her achievements in the performing arts, which is a growth industry area where the university has courses.

The university works with The Octagon to allow students to learn about the staging of plays and other aspects of performance.

The honour also came as a surprise to former Bolton Wanderers star Chris Eagles, who was made a doctor of science for services to sport.

Chris admitted he was nervous and honoured to be part of the ceremony.

He said: “I would like to thank the university and everyone involved for giving me this great honour.

"It means a lot to me. I will always remember it. I didn’t believe I had been given it at first, and then I got the phone call. I am very proud.”

Other honorary doctorates included bookmaker Fred Done and the Octagon Theatre’s artistic director David Thacker and his wife Margot Leicester.

Margot said: “It is the greatest possible honour. Education for my parents was more important than money and I wish they were here to see me accept it, but my family are here.”

David added: “It’s a great honour to be here on this very special occasion. We both feel very privileged the university has bestowed this honour on us.”

Atlantic rower Mark Brocklehurst was made an doctor of humanities for service to charity.

He said: “I am really excited. I don’t normally get nervous but am a little in awe of it all.

“I was born and bred in Bolton. This is for all the other rowers. We couldn’t have done it without each other.”