Aston University celebrates graduate success


15 July 2014

Aston University held its graduation ceremonies in the grand surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall all last week. 

There were nine degree ceremonies in total at the grade-1 listed landmark, which first opened as a music hall in 1834. Throughout the week, more than 1,800 students from across Aston’s four Schools received their degrees and were commended for their hard work. 

During the ceremonies, the University also presented nine honorary degrees to the following leading figures in fields such as business, law, politics, pharmacy and the media. 

Dr Tim Leverton 

Dr Tim Leverton is President and Head of the Advanced Product Engineering Division of Tata Motors based in Pune, India. 

In a career spanning 32 years in the world automotive industry, he has been involved in the engineering design and development of a wide range of vehicles and components – from small cars to large trucks as well as a variety of construction equipment. After graduating from Aston with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1981, Dr Leverton joined the Austin Rover Group and held a number of senior management positions. 

He transferred to BMW and then to JCB as Group Engineering Director before joining Tata Motors in his current role in 2010. Dr Leverton is now responsible for the global research and development of all Tata branded passenger cars, trucks and buses, heading a team of 6,000 engineers. 

In 2008, he was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering. 

Dr David Gregory-Kumar 

After studying for a PhD in Physics at the University of Liverpool, Dr David Gregory-Kumar decided against a career in research to try and break into journalism. He won a prestigious British Association Media Fellowship at the BBC, allowing him to pitch various story ideas to news editors. 

Eventually, he managed to combine his love of science with his enjoyment of journalism and was appointed as a Science Reporter to BBC Radio 5 Live and then to BBC News in the Midlands. 

In the course of his science reporting, he has travelled to Japan, America, and Ghana and twice to CERN. Much of his time, however, is spent in the Midlands and he has reported many great Aston University innovations from the billion dollar brain drug, temozolomide to the opening of the European Bioenergy Institute. 

Arunachalam Vellayan 

Arunachalam is the Executive Chairman of the Murugappa Group, one of India’s oldest corporations. The Group is an engineering, financial services and agricultural products conglomerate with a turnover of $3.8bn and over 32,000 employees. 

Mr Vellayan, who studied for a degree in Industrial Administration at Aston University, is also the Chairman of Coromandel International, EID Parry and the Fertiliser Association of India. Previously, he has been the Vice-President for the Federation of Indian Expert Organisation, President of ICC India and Director of EXIM Bank and Overseas Bank. 

Mr Vellayan has been key in ensuring the Murugappa Group are engaged in a number of charitable activities in India, such as founding hospitals and educational institutions. 

Roshan Thomas (Posthumous Award)

Roshan graduated from Aston University with a degree in Optometry in 1978. Over the years, Roshan used this training to serve marginalised populations in the developing world. 

With her ophthalmologist husband, Rahim, she volunteered in refugee camps in Pakistan. They then established a comprehensive eye clinic in one of the most vulnerable areas of Karachi and developed a nursing manual delivered through Aga Khan University. 

In 2003, Roshan established an independent Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre, called the Sparks Academy, in Kabul, Afghanistan. She lived within a local Afghan community, learning about their challenges and aspirations, and used this knowledge to create a culturally relevant but international standard curriculum for her programme. 

Roshan served as the Chair of the Aga Khan Education Board for British Columbia, the Chair of the United World College Selection Committee in Afghanistan and as a member of the International Baccalaureate Board of Governors. 

Mark Koziol Wednesday

Mark is an Aston graduate, qualifying as a pharmacist in 1984. He then founded the Young Pharmacists’ Group in 1985 and was instrumental in establishing the YPG Pharmacy, requiring him to raise nearly £250,000 of donations. A not for profit social enterprise, the Pharmacy is a pioneering practice laboratory which works for the benefit of both the local community and the wider profession. 

Mark was responsible for setting-up the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) in 2003 and is its Chairman. A not for profit defence association, the PDA became a certified trade union in 2011 and its membership has grown to 23,000. It supports pharmacists and students in difficulty, delivering assistance in more than 4,000 individual cases in 2013 alone. 

Mark is an honorary life member of the Aston Pharmacy Association, British Pharmacy Association and Young Pharmacists’ Group. In 2010, he was awarded the Pharmas Pharmacy Professional Life Time Achievement Award.

The Honourable Mr Justice Davis 

William Davis was called to the Bar in 1975 and began to practice law in Birmingham in 1976. He practised for over 30 years, principally in crime, personal injury and clinical negligence. 

By the time of his appointment to the Circuit Bench in 2008, he had taken silk and had been instrumental in the establishment of St Philips Chambers, a multi-disciplinary set of barristers. With just over 80 members when it began, the St Philips Chambers now has 175 members. Between 2004 and 2008, William was Head of the Chambers. 

In 2009, he was appointed as Senior Court Judge at Birmingham Crown Court and given the title of Recorder of Birmingham. This year, he became a Justice of the High Court, thereby bringing to a close nearly 40 years as a legal practitioner and a judge in Birmingham. 

Jason Wouhra

Jason is a Director of East End Foods, the UK’s premier ethnic foods manufacturer and cash and carry wholesaler. He began working for the company in 1998, managing one of its cash and carry depots. He quickly displayed his business credentials by growing turnover of the store by more than 70%. 

Since then, his vision and business acumen have helped the company expand further. Today, it is a major supplier to both independent retailers and large corporations such as Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, with annual turnover in excess of £180m. 

Jason plays an active role in the region’s business community. He is the youngest ever Chair of the Institute of Directors (IOD) West Midlands, Chair of the Library of Birmingham Advisory Board and was Vice-Chair of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership. 

Mike Wright

Mike Wright was appointed to the position of Executive Director of Jaguar Land Rover in 2010 to focus on the development of corporate strategies to deliver the company’s growth ambitions. 

He has a wide array of direct responsibilities, including Group Strategy, Global Financial Services, worldwide Government Affairs and the new Individual Products division. 

In addition to his role at Jaguar Land Rover, Mike is Chair of CBI West Midlands Council, a Director of EEF Ltd and Chair of the Advisory Board of Aston Business School. 

Dorian Chan

Dorian Chan is a highly motivated and respected entrepreneur. She came to the UK from Hong Kong at the age of 12 with minimal English and little knowledge of English culture. Her circumstances were never barriers to her success, however. 

In 2000, Dorian decided to pursue a career in business by joining Wing Wah Chinese Catering Company. At the time, the company was in severe financial difficulties but, by applying modern business models, Dorian managed to change the loss making enterprise into a profitable, successful group. 

Dorian’s leadership has led to the group establishing a number of other restaurants across the Midlands. The company has since diversified into business in different sectors, turning over £12m a year and employing over 300 staff. 

Her achievements in business were recognised in 2006 when she was given the prestigious Midlands Business Woman of the Year Award.


For more information, see Aston University's graduation website here.

For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or