Winter 2009 — honorary graduates at The University of Nottingham

08 Dec 2009 14:00:00.000

PA 316/09

A distinguished businessman and a gold medal-winning swimmer are to be honoured at The University of Nottingham's winter graduation ceremonies.

Talented students gathering for their graduation ceremonies will rub shoulders with Tony Wilkinson and Rebecca Adlington as they receive honorary degrees for making an exceptional contribution in their chosen fields.

Businessman and philanthropist Tony Wilkinson receives an honorary Doctor of Laws at the 3pm ceremony on Thursday, December 10th. Mr Wilkinson began his business career as a trainee manager with FW Woolworth before joining the high street retail business which bears the family name in 1960, as a branch manager. He chaired Wilkinson"€™s Hardware Stores Ltd from 1971 until 2005, overseeing significant growth and great commercial success during that time.

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Since his retirement in 2005, he has held a number of positions including Fellow of the Royal Society Arts and Science; Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire; High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire (2005-06); Trustee of Sue Ryder Care; and a member of Council at the University of Nottingham. Mr Wilkinson is also a former Chairman of Nottingham Regeneration Ltd, a public-private partnership established in 1998 to tackle physical regeneration in Nottingham.


Together with his wife, Christine, he established a charitable foundation, the Wilkinson Family Charitable Trust, giving generously to various causes. The Wilkinsons supported the University’s Golden Jubilee Campaign with a gift to the DH Lawrence Pavilion and continue to donate a significant number of books to the University libraries. In addition, Wilkinson Hardware Stores have supported scholarships in the Business School and in Engineering. In 2005 Mr Wilkinson was admitted to the University’s College of Benefactors in recognition of his consistent support for the institution.


Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington receives an honorary Master of Arts degree at the 11am ceremony on Wednesday, December 9th.


Rebecca learned to swim at the age of four, and by the age of ten had joined Nova Centurion swimming club, which uses The University of Nottingham pool for training. At Nova Centurion she was spotted by Bill Furniss, who remains her coach to this day. She competed internationally for the first time in 2003, representing Team GB at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Paris and winning silver medals in the 400m and 800m Freestyle.


These early successes were followed by her first international victory in 2004 at the European Junior Championships. Rebecca missed the Commonwealth Games in 2006 due to illness, but came back later that year to win a silver medal in the 800m Freestyle at the European Senior Championships, her first senior international competition.


2008 would prove to be Rebecca’s finest year so far. Gold and Silver medals at the World Championships in Manchester in the Spring were followed by the Beijing Olympic Games. Competing at her first Olympics, Rebecca won two Gold Medals in the 400m and 800m Freestyle and in winning the latter she broke the longest-standing swimming World Record, which had been set in 1989 — the year she was born. She was also Britain’s first Olympic swimming champion since 1988, and the first British swimmer to win two Olympic gold medals since 1908.


Rebecca received an OBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours.


— Ends —


Notes to editors:

Graduation ceremonies take place in the Sports Centre at The University of Nottingham's University Park campus. Media requests for access can be made by prior arrangement.


The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation – School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. 

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Story credits

More information is available from Tim Utton , Deputy Director, Communications, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 8092,

Tim Utton

Tim Utton - Deputy Director of Communications

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8092 Location: University Park

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