18 July 2018

Honorary Graduates 2018

Recognising the outstanding contributions to the life and work of the university, or to the wider cause of education

By Development and Alumni Relations Team

Royal Holloway bestows honorary awards each year in recognition of outstanding contributions to the life and work of the university, or to the wider cause of education.

In this year’s summer graduation ceremonies, we welcomed five new honorary graduates to the Royal Holloway community;

  • Chris Packham, television presenter, and award-winning photographer, author and conservationist
  • Dame Stephanie Shirley, one of the UK’s leading women entrepreneurs and philanthropists
  • Jayne-Anne Gadhia CBE, Chief Executive of Virgin Money
  • Her Honour Judge Khatun Sapnara
  • Lynwen Brennan CBE, EVP and General Manager of Lucasfilm

Read more about these inspiring individuals and their work below.


Chris PackhamTelevision presenter, and award-winning photographer, author and conservationist, Chris Packham, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa. The award was given to Chris for his outstanding conservation work.

A leading naturalist and figure in wildlife conservation, Chris is recognised for his exceptional work in television and broadcast. A true advocate of ecology, Chris recognises that a growing pressure for resources hinders our conservation progress and, so we must form powerful partnerships with industry and the commercial sector in order to establish extensive care of the environment.

Speaking of his award Chris said: “The ethos and atmosphere I have encountered at Royal Holloway in regards to research and education has been exciting, imaginative and important. I love learning, and every time I’ve visited, I’ve left more knowledgeable.”

Addressing the graduation ceremony, Chris reiterated the importance and value of knowledge rather than just information. He added that although the world faces many challenges he is confident that young people, such as those graduating from Royal Holloway, were equipped with the knowledge, energy, ambition and intelligence to help tackle these major ecological challenges.


Stephanie ShirleyDame Stephanie Shirley CH, one of the UK’s leading women entrepreneurs and philanthropists was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa. The award was given to Dame Stephanie for her outstanding contribution to Information Technology.

Dame Stephanie arrived in England as an unaccompanied Kindertransport child refugee from her home in Vienna at the outbreak of World War Two. She went on to found an early software company that was eventually valued at £3bn. She started the company with just £6 as a crusade to encourage more women to pursue careers in computer science. Her female-friendly company paved the way for new thinking, with its flexibility, holistic approach to human resources and co-ownership.

As well as being a pioneering female entrepreneur in the field of software development, Dame Stephanie is also one of the country’s leading philanthropists through her charitable foundation, The Shirley Foundation. Her main focus is on autism, her late son Giles suffered from the condition, and she has addressed the United Nations on the issue.

Dame Stephanie was the first female President of the British Computer Society, and her memoire, Let IT Go, is currently being made into a film.

Dame Stephanie said: “It is wonderful to be honoured by Royal Holloway, historically a positive agent for women and at the sharp end of higher education.”


Jayne-Anne GadhiaJayne-Anne Gadhia CBE, Chief Executive of Virgin Money, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Economics), Honoris Causa. The award was bestowed upon Jayne-Anne for her outstanding contribution to financial services.

After graduating from Royal Holloway in 1983 with a degree in history, Jayne-Anne Gadhia CBE, was one of the founders of Virgin Direct in 1995. Now Chief Executive of Virgin Money, Jayne-Anne is an advocate of the importance of business making a positive impact on society, and was Business in the Community’s National Responsible Business Ambassador from 2016 to 2018.

In 2016, Jayne-Anne was also appointed as the UK Government’s Women in Finance Champion, and later became a founding member of its Business Diversity and Inclusion Group. Her work within the group has included an independent review for HM Treasury, into the representation of women at senior levels in financial services, which led to the Women in Finance Charter – a commitment by firms to create more balanced workforces.

Jayne-Anne said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to receive an honorary degree from Royal Holloway, University of London where I spent three very happy years as an undergraduate and also met my husband.

“I am especially proud to have received this honour on the hundredth anniversary of female suffrage given the pioneering role this institution played in the education and empowerment of women and its students played in securing women the vote.”


Judge Sapnara

Her Honour Judge Khatun Sapnara was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, three years after her son graduated from the University, with a degree in Economics. The award was given to Her Honour Judge Khatun Sapnara for her exceptional contribution to the British justice system.

After coming to England, aged six, following war in Bangladesh, Judge Sapnara attended state schools and graduated with an LLB (Hons) from LSE. She was called to the Bar in 1990 and practised as a barrister for 24 years.

Judge Sapnara was the first BAME barrister to be elected to the Family Law Bar Association Committee and she also served on the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity committee. In 2004 she was appointed as an expert member of the Family Justice Council by the Lord Chancellor. She was appointed as a Circuit Judge in 2014, and presides over both family and criminal cases.

Judge Sapnara played a key role in the creation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, and was appointed by the Lord Chief Justice as a Diversity Community Relations Judge and a Judicial Role Model.

Speaking of her award Her Honour Judge Khatun Sapnara said: “I am delighted and humbled to have this honour bestowed upon me and I am most grateful to Royal Holloway for recognising me in this way. My elder son graduated from here three years ago and I look forward to a continuing relationship with this very special college”.


Lynwen BrennanLynwen Brennan CBE, EVP and General Manager of Lucasfilm, and Royal Holloway alumna, has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Social Sciences), Honoris Causa. The award was bestowed upon Lynwen for her outstanding work in the visual effects industry.

After graduating from Royal Holloway with a degree in Geography in 1988, Lynwen’s career at Lucasfilm has spanned nearly 20 years, with her first post as Technical Leader for the Computer Graphics Technical Directors. She has worked on blockbuster hits such as Star Wars, Iron Man, Avatar and Star Trek.

Prior to her role as General Manager, Lynwen was the President of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for seven years. The company saw one of its most successful periods during this time, and Lynwen’s leadership enabled ILM to expand globally, opening offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, and London, as well as expand their existing studios in San Francisco and Singapore.

Lynwen’s previous experience includes work within visual effects software development at corporations such as Parallax Software, Avid Technology and Alias Wavefront. In 2016, she was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for her contribution and services to supporting the UK’s visual effects industry.

Speaking of her award, Lynwen said: “I am deeply honoured to be receiving such an esteemed award. I think back on my years at Royal Holloway with great appreciation, as they taught me the value of dedication, creativity and teamwork, which have been the foundation of my career ever since. I now have the incredible privilege of working with the most dedicated and creative teams at Lucasfilm and ILM, and it is on their behalf that I receive this wonderful recognition.