Graduation week begins for Aston University

graduation pr
Image from Spring Graduation 2017

17 July 2017

  • More than 2,000 students to be formally conferred as graduates at Town Hall Birmingham across nine ceremonies taking place between 17 July and 21 July
  • The UK’s first ever degree apprentices to graduate
  • 12 honorary degrees to be awarded to outstanding individuals

Aston University will hold its summer graduation ceremonies throughout this week (17 July–21 July) at the Town Hall Birmingham.

More than 2,000 students will attend, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to receive their degrees in the presence of Vice Chancellor Professor Alec Cameron – the first summer ceremony since he was appointed last year.

The graduation will be spread across nine ceremonies, each lasting around an hour. After the ceremony, many of the new graduates will congregate in Victoria Square, weather permitting, before heading back to campus.

This year’s celebration is particularly special for the University as the UK’s first ever degree apprentices will be graduating on Monday 17 July. In partnership with Capgemini, Aston was the first university in the country to offer this alternative to a traditional degree programme. Degree apprentices combine learning with hands-on work experience. In addition to their tuition fees being paid by their employer, they also get to earn while they learn – so there is no need for student finance.

The apprentices will receive their degrees in the presence of Sue Husband, the Director of the National Apprenticeship Service at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who is receiving an honorary degree.

Aston will be awarding a total of 12 honorary degrees to individuals who have distinguished themselves in a particular field or profession, or who have given meritorious service to the University. This year’s recipients are:

  • Beverly Lindsay, OBE, OD, VLL
  • Ir Joseph Choi Kin Hung, BSc, RPE, CEng, FHKIE, FHKIHT, MICE
  • Nigel Howe, BSc
  • Sharon Lea
  • Professor Joanne Wood, BSc, PhD
  • Jurek Piasecki
  • Olayemi Cardoso, BSc, MPA
  • Sue Husband
  • John Rawlinson, BSc, MSB, C.Biol, FRSA, FRSPH, FRMS
  • Nasir Awan, MBE
  • Reginald Garratt, BSc
  • Waheed Nazir

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said: “I am very much looking forward my first full week of graduation ceremonies since I was appointed as Vice Chancellor at Aston last year. Graduation day is an important milestone in the lives of every one of our students. It is a time to look back on the achievements and experiences gained over the course of their student life, but also to take a moment to realise the wealth of opportunity that now lies before them as Aston graduates. I shall enjoy congratulating them all.”


Notes to the editor

  • Photographers are welcome to take pictures of the graduates (with their permission) as they exit the Town Hall and congregate in Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre. The best time to arrive is 12pm for the morning ceremonies and 3.30pm for the afternoon ceremonies. Note: there is no morning ceremony on Monday 17 July.
  • Arrangements can be made for photographers to come to campus where graduates will also be celebrating. Please contact the press office.

About the honorary graduates

Beverly Lindsay OBE, OD, VLL

Beverly was born in St Thomas, Jamaica and came to Birmingham as a teenager to complete her secondary education. She started her career in nursing and midwifery and, after leaving nursing, worked as a Senior Community Worker in Handsworth, Birmingham and in the financial services before establishing Diamond Travel in 1987.

Throughout the years, Beverly founded and co-founded many initiatives, organisations and events that were instrumental to providing vital services and support to local communities. Beverly is chairperson of the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK that annually awards “unsung heroes” and “rising young stars” within the local community. She is Deputy Chair Governor and Chair of the Trust at Handsworth Wood Girls Academy; Member of the University of Birmingham’s Community Advisory Board; Member of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and served as committee member of the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Charity Appeal between 1997 and 2014.

In 1997, Beverly became a member of the Rotary Club of Birmingham, and in 2009 was named a “Paul Harris Fellow”, the highest award from the Rotary Foundation, in recognition of the substantial contribution to the organisation. She served as the President during 2012/2013.

Beverly is a mentor, champion and supporter of the African Caribbean community throughout the UK and in 2008 was awarded a National Honour by the Jamaican Government – Order of Distinction. In 2011 Beverly was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen with the Order of British Empire. In 2013 she was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands and earlier this month was appointed Vice Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands.

Ir Joseph CHOI Kin Hung, BSc, RPE, CEng, FHKIE, FHKIHT, MICE

Ir Joseph CHOI is an Executive Director and CEO of Hsin Chong Group Holdings, one of Hong Kong's oldest names in construction, property and related services. Under his leadership, the Group has registered unprecedented growth.

Ir Choi graduated from Aston University in 1970 with a BSc in Civil Engineering. In his career of more than 45 years, Ir Choi has held senior management positions at world-leading construction, property development and railway companies. He is a fellow and the 2016-2017 President of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a chartered engineer and a registered professional engineer of Hong Kong. Ir Choi is also a member of the Departmental Advisory Committee for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the HK Polytechnic University, a fellow and council member of the HK Institution of Highways and Transportation, as well as a member of the Infrastructure Development Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

A passionate engineer, Ir Choi has devoted himself to advancing the standards and interests of the profession while nurturing young engineers. Most recently, he has spearheaded efforts to promote global opportunities for engineers under China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

Nigel Howe, BSc

Nigel Howe was born in Wolverhampton and although he was from a football family, (his father, Dick played for various clubs and his uncle was former Arsenal and England coach, Don Howe) he initially chose a different career path, graduating from Aston University with a degree in Building Technology and Management and entering the property world in project management. 

He spent the first years of his working life in property development, including positions with major development companies such as Beazer Group, Highcross, Wain Group and Portman Properties, part of Portman Building Society.

In 1995, he joined Reading Football Club to oversee the planning and construction of Madejski Stadium and the following year became the club’s Chief Executive, a position he still holds.  He advised Sir John Madejski from 2000 to 2010 on all of his investments worldwide, from printing to traffic management, bottling to property and hotels.  

Nigel is also a Director of Thai PropCo and of Get Berkshire Active.

Sharon Lea

Sharon Lea has enjoyed a notable career in Local Government and is now supporting public and private sector businesses to help them prosper.  She specialises in leading service transformation to improve performance and generate million pound efficiencies.  Previously Sharon was Strategic Director of Place at Birmingham and has held a diverse range of directorships over the past 20 years with responsibility for 35 services including Homes and Neighbourhoods; Highways; Parks & Resilience; Leisure, Sport and Culture, Libraries; Museums; Events, and Adult Education.  Sharon has led 4,000 staff, held £750 million budgets and served one million citizens.

Sharon a passionate supporter of art, culture and sport for all and led on the strategic planning and implementation of high profile major events to enhance the city’s reputation. This included Birmingham’s Half Marathon, the Frankfurt Christmas Market, and Arts Fest – the UK’s largest free arts festival.  Sharon worked with Lord Patten to host Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Birmingham which was viewed by a global audience.

Professor Joanne Wood, BSc, PhD

Joanne Wood is a Professor in the School of Optometry and Vision Science and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. She completed undergraduate studies in Optometry and a PhD in visual field investigation at Aston University, followed by a post-doctoral position at Oxford University, before joining QUT where she has been since 1989.

The main focus of Joanne’s research has been the impact of visual impairment and ageing on functional outcomes, including understanding how visual impairment affects driving performance, the factors affecting night-time pedestrian and bicyclist visibility, and identifying risk factors for unsafe older drivers. This research has made a significant contribution through a large body of publications in refereed journals, conference presentations, contribution to health practice and policy (including advice to licensing bodies and health professionals regarding driver licensing standards) and translation of research into standards.

Jurek Piasecki

Entrepreneur Jurek Piasecki graduated from Aston University in 1967 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, he started working for British vehicle manufacturer Leyland Motor Corporation. In 1973 he received a sponsorship to Manchester Business School and completed an MBA there. Equipped with a keen business mind, he became Finance Director of Jackson the Tailor, a retail company with five factories and nearly 200 shops, a division of the (then) Burton Group.

In the 1980s he helped to build up jewellery chain the Goldsmiths Group, increasing the turnover from £3m to £350m. In 2008 he formed Lock End Investments, a small venture capital company. This is now managed by his son, who is also a graduate of Aston University. Today he heads up luxury jewellery brand, Theo Fennell, which he bought in 2013.

Olayemi Cardoso, BSc, MPA

Yemi Cardoso is the Chairman of Citibank Nigeria. An accomplished banker, Yemi started his banking career with Citi. He was hired in London, trained in Athens and rose to the position of Vice-President in Nigeria. He left to co-found Citizens International Bank where he was an Executive Director. Yemi entered public service in 1999 when he was appointed cabinet member and Commissioner for Budget and Planning for Lagos State. He wrote the economic blue print that catalysed economic development in the world’s sixth largest mega city and returned to the private sector in 2005.

Yemi has extensive board experience with several leading institutions, including Chevron Oil. He was Chairman of the World Bank’s LMDG project and Chairman of the Gates Foundation/DFID company, EFInA.

Yemi advises Governments, major international development organisations and private sector corporations. He is a member of the Belgian-based Cities Alliance Think Tank and is advisor to MIT’s Urban Metabolism Group.

He graduated from Aston University with a BSc in Managerial and Administrative Studies, holds a Masters in Public Administration and Management from Harvard University and was a Mason Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

He is married with five children.

Sue Husband

Sue Husband is the Director of the National Apprenticeship Service at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), an executive agency of the Department of Education (DfE).

Sue is responsible for two of the customer facing services of the ESFA; the National Apprenticeship Service and the National Careers Service.  The National Apprenticeship Service supports the delivery of apprenticeships and traineeships in England, supporting employers and individuals to realise the benefits of apprenticeships.  The National Careers Service provides impartial careers information and advice and guidance to adults and young people to support their decision-making about learning and work.

Apprenticeships and skills have long been a real passion of Sue’s, which started with her love of learning at school and was cemented in her early years of work. She is currently studying a Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship with the Open University.

John Rawlinson, BSc, MSB, C.Biol, FRSA, FRSPH, FRMS

John Rawlinson came from a small town, Todmorden, in West Yorkshire, where he attended the local grammar school. The school, having two Nobel Laureates to its name, had a good pedigree in education.

Following a degree in Biology and Institute of Biology qualifications (Microbiology) John went on to hold laboratory positions in the National Blood Service and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children/Institute of Child Health.

A move into the commercial world highlighted a gap in the market for the supply of research reagents to academia and Insight Biotechnology was launched. Company growth financed John to take a novel product for the reduction of Healthcare Associated Infection through licensing with the UK regulatory authority, MHRA. This led to the formation of Insight Health.

The success of these products in the marketplace prompted the collaboration with Aston University in delving further into the reduction of potential sources of infection within the healthcare setting.

Nasir Awan, MBE

Nasir Awan is the Chief Executive Officer at Awan Marketing Plc, Awan Marketing International Ltd and Awan Property Investments Ltd.

He is the son of a Pakistan Air Force Officer who was decorated in the second world war. Born in North West Frontier of Pakistan, Nasir came to England in 1967, aged 9, to join his family in Aston. In 1978 he had to leave school to support the family business, due to his father’s ill health.

In 1980 Nasir set up a wholesale business for consumer electronics and became one of the UK’s major distributors for brands like Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi. He was also the largest independent distributor in the 80’s in the UK for TDK audio and video tapes.

When the brands started supplying direct to the retailers, Nasir started importing housewares and everyday use products from China, where he established a staffed office. The company is now run by the third generation of the family, supplying UK retailers, as well as exporting to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, with trading links, in Turkey, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Italy and Spain.       

Nasir is also a Director of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group and Chairman of the Asian Chamber of Commerce Institute of Asian Businesses. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to business and International Trade in the 2016 New Year’s Honours, and appointed Deputy Lieutenant to, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands earlier this month.

Reginald Garratt, BSc

Reginald Garratt studied mechanical engineering and graduated from Aston in 1951.

Going on to study electronic engineering, Reg joined a UK guided missile team, becoming a Team Leader of engineers on the British Fireflash, an airborne guided weapon.

In 1958 he joined Honeywell Minneapolis, as a Sales Engineer, based in Erdington. Reg was promoted to UK Sales Manager and in 1969 appointed Managing Director of Honeywell’s African operations.

Four years later he was transferred to Honeywell USA as Manager of Marketing where he introduced Market Research, which would later prove to be invaluable in audiology.

In 1977 Reg joined Knowles Electronics Inc. in Chicago, the world’s leading manufacturer of hearing aid sub-miniature microphones and speakers, as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. At that time Knowles held 25% share of the world’s hearing aid transducer sales and provided R&D to the hearing aid market.

Reg became President of Knowles in 1988, then CEO and Chairman. One accomplishment during this period was the development of the world’s first silicon microphone, used today in mobile phones. Knowles held 85% share of the worldwide transducer market and in 1999 Reg divested the company which resulted in a $530m sale. Aged 73, Reg retired in 2003.

After retirement Reg invested and became a board member of Tympany Inc. based in Texas, to develop the world’s first FDA approved fully-automated hearing test equipment. He is now continuing his entrepreneurial work on an FDA approved automated Pure Tone Audiometer which will accomplish a pure tone audiogram for General Physicians in just five minutes.

Over his career, Reg was President of the Better Hearing Institute, Washington DC and Director of “Hear Now” an audiology charity serving the hearing impaired.

Reg is an American citizen, married to Gail Garratt, with three sons and eight grandchildren.     

Waheed Nazir

As Corporate Director for Economy at Birmingham City Council, Waheed has worked for the local authority in various roles including Director of Planning & Regeneration, Director of Regeneration, Assistant Director for Development Planning, as well as CEO of SRB6.

Waheed is responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction across a wide portfolio, including the city council property portfolio, planning, regeneration, housing development, transportation and connectivity, highways and infrastructure, skills and employment, and business development and inward investment.

Waheed has over 20 years’ experience in developing and implementing successful innovations in the field of growth, development and regeneration and exploiting new opportunities to secure funding from private and public resources.

Waheed is also a Visiting Professor of Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City University, a role which allows him to share his knowledge and experience of the Built Environment agenda with future professionals in the field.

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.

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