First woman of Indian origin who made history trekking solo to South Pole among those receiving University of Derby honorary degree

5 July 2022

The first woman of Indian origin to complete a solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole, a member of the England Women’s Rugby Union Team, and an award-winning LGBT+ advocate, are among those who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Derby later this month.

Each year notable people with a strong connection to the University or to the city are chosen to receive an Honorary Degree at the Awards Ceremonies, when the University’s students graduate after completing their courses.

Thousands of students, guests and VIPs are expected to attend the next set of Awards Ceremonies which will take place from Wednesday 20 July to Friday 22 July at Derby Arena.

The recipients of the Honorary Degrees are:

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, said: “Graduation is such an important milestone for our students, their families and guests. It is the culmination of years of hard work and provides an opportunity for our students to reflect on what they have achieved and celebrate the efforts they have put into their studies during their time at university.

“It is also an opportunity to recognise and thank those inspirational people who have helped contribute to our University, city and county, which is done so through the awarding of honorary degrees. The positive impact this year’s honorands have made is significant, so we are delighted to be able to acknowledge that. Congratulations to everyone that will be graduating, we cannot wait to celebrate with you.”

British army officer and physiotherapist Captain Harpreet Chandi MBE recently made history by becoming the first woman of Indian origin to complete a solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole. The trek took 40 days, covering 700 miles across the Antarctic wilderness.  

In 2009, Captain Chandi undertook an access course at the University of Derby. In October 2021, she gained a distinction in her master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine at Queen Mary’s University of London and is currently stationed at RAF Halton. She was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022 with an MBE. 

Shaun Dellenty is a school leader, speaker, trainer, and author. A survivor of childhood homophobic bullying, Shaun remained ‘closeted’ as a teacher until 2009 when he began recounting his personal story across the UK. He now dedicates his time fully to global advocacy and was named as one of the top 100 influential LGBT+ people in the UK. 

Liam Sharp is a Derby-born publisher, artist and writer of comics and novels, who currently lives in California. He has worked on all the major titles for DC and Marvel, including The Hulk, The X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. He recently completed an acclaimed 24-issue run on The Green Lantern with legendary writer Grant Morrison and began work on an epic creator-owned series for Image Comics called StarHenge – a sprawling saga across time based on the legend of Merlin. In 2017 Derby Museums celebrated his work with a ten-week retrospective.

As the award-winning Chief Executive of Disability Direct, Amarjit (Amo) Raju has been instrumental in promoting support services for disabled people in Derby. As a disabled person himself from birth, Amo has faced countless personal battles throughout his own journey. He is now a nationally recognised sector leader. He has directly and personally raised more than £25 million in grants, contracts and self-generated income for the disabled community, and has been a leading light during the pandemic. 

Lydia Thompson is a member of the England Women’s Rugby Union Team, who made her debut in 2012 when she scored three tries against Spain during the 2012 European Cup. At club level she plays for Worcester Warriors Women. She has represented England in two World Cups, the Commonwealth Games and several Six Nations Championships. She has 53 England Caps and 43 tries to her name and was nominated World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2017. Lydia graduated from the University in Occupational Therapy in 2013.  

Her Honour Judge Nirmal Shant QC is the Resident Judge at Derby Crown Court and conducts the most serious criminal cases in Derbyshire. She was called to the Bar in 1984 and in 2006 was appointed as a Queen’s Counsel, one of the first black and minority ethnic barristers in the East Midlands to hold such a rank. She is an advocate for diversity in the legal profession and a mentor for the University’s legal students. 

Peter Smith is a founder of the well-known local law firm, Smith Partnership, one of the leading law firms in the area. In 2012, Peter was appointed founding chair of the Derby Museums Trust. Under Peter’s leadership, the Trust surmounted enormous financial and other challenges and successfully put together a bid for £15m of inward investment to create the Museum of Making, now a landmark in the city and a major visitor draw. 

To mark the beginning of the Awards Ceremonies, a special service will take place at Derby Cathedral on Tuesday 19 July at 6pm.

Find out more about the University of Derby Awards Ceremonies. 

Read more about the honorands.

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