Skip to content

The latest generation of nurses, midwives, social workers and specialist health professionals are set to graduate from the University of Chester on Thursday, March 24 and Friday, March 25.

More than 1,150 soon-to-be-graduates will receive their awards in the majestic setting of Chester Cathedral in the first in-person graduation ceremonies since the first lockdown in March 2020. As ‘Citizen Students’ many played an integral role in supporting health and social care during the pandemic and will help shape the future workforce in the county, region and beyond.

They will be joined by friends and supporters to share their special day right in the heart of Chester, bringing in thousands of visitors and giving the city centre’s retail and hospitality businesses a welcome economic boost.

The graduands will be joined by at each ceremony by a distinguished guest, who will receive an honorary degree from the University for excellence, predominantly in the field of healthcare and wellbeing.

Dr Gyles Brandreth, Chancellor of the University of Chester, will present the awards during ceremonies two, three, four and five with Vice-Chancellor Professor Eunice Simmons presenting the awards in ceremonies one and six.

Professor Simmons said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome our soon-to-be graduates to be able to celebrate with their friends and supporters in the glorious surroundings of Chester Cathedral. We hope to give them a day to remember as they celebrate all their achievements, particularly following such challenging times.

“It is also an opportunity to recognise the accomplishments of our honoraries, who have worked with such dedication to improve the health and wellbeing across Cheshire and beyond.”

Thursday, March 24

  • Ceremony 1  

Charles William Holroyd CBE DL will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in recognition of his outstanding charitable work, in particular with the Holroyd Foundation and for his role as former High Sheriff of Cheshire. 

Bill was born on a farm in Eskdale, Cumbria and attended Keswick School. He went on to study Hotel Management at Courtfield College in Blackpool. Realising that hotel management was not for him he joined Trusthouse Forte’s supply division where he stayed for eight years, creating and running the company’s national distribution network.

In 1982 he left THF to set up his own foodservice distribution company, Holroyd Meek. By 1994 the company had a turnover of £190m serving over 7,000 restaurants across the UK. In 1995, Booker acquired the company and Bill started his own investment company. Between 1995 and 2020, he has invested in over 30 start-up and second-stage companies. Major successes have been Millie’s Cookies, Positive Solutions, AO World, Artorius and UCFB (University of Football) and Evergreen Life.

In 2008 Bill founded OnSide Youth Zones, a charity providing safe and inspiring, state-of-the-art facilities for young people in their leisure time. Fifteen Youth Zones are now completed with a further 14 in process. At present, over 50,000 young people are regular users of the Youth Zones. 

In 2013 Bill was awarded the CBE; in 2015 he was the High Sheriff for Cheshire and awarded a Beacon Fellowship for Philanthropy.

Bill lives in Cheshire and is married to Julie and they have four children. His recreational interests include classic cars, rallying and trekking.

He said: “As someone who largely squandered the educational opportunities that were given to me, I am deeply honoured to be given this much-valued honorary degree and I dedicate the award to my long-suffering parents, who would be stunned to see how things have worked out for me.”

  • Ceremony 2 

Katherine Cowell OBE DL will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the county of Cheshire. 

Kathy is Chairman of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest Trusts in the country, consisting of 10 hospitals and 10 community services across Manchester.


Previously Kathy was Chairman of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT) from November 2016, having previously held the role of CMFT Non-Executive Director since March 2013 and CMFT Senior Independent Director (SID) since March 2016. A banker by profession, Kathy worked for Cheshire Building Society for 24 years until taking early retirement in 2006. With a keen interest in local communities, her past roles include: Chairman of Manchester Health Academy – Wythenshawe; Chairman of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; Chairman of Cheshire and Merseyside Courts Board; a member of the Lord Chancellors Advisory Committee on the appointment of Justices of the Peace; Chairman of Your Housing Group (a social housing provider) with 33,000 homes across the North West and member of the Strategic Growth Committee at East Cheshire Hospice. Kathy has held several Chairman and Non-Executive roles in health, in both the provider and commissioner roles including Chairman of the East Cheshire NHS Acute Trust; NHS Cluster/PCT Chairman; and Vice Chairman of Warrington Hospital NHS Acute Trust.

Her current roles include: Deputy Lieutenant of Cheshire; Ambassador for Diversity in Public Appointments; Chairman of TLC Stockport; Chairman of The Hammond School Chester; Vice Chairman of Cheshire Young Carers; Ambassador for Active Cheshire; Founder member of Cheshire Community Foundation and Ambassador for St Ann’s Hospice.

She said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded this Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration by the University of Chester. Throughout my career in business, healthcare and the voluntary sectors, it has been my great pleasure to have worked with some excellent teams and to have seen first-hand how groups of individuals working together can harness their drive, commitment and professionalism to achieve superb outcomes. This award will spur me on in my personal mission to help people make the most of their potential, whatever field they are working or volunteering in.”

  • Ceremony 3 

Professor Richard Parish CBE will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Health (DPH) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public health. 

A biologist by background with a special interest in population biology, Richard has worked in public health or higher education for most of his professional life. Formerly an NHS Chief Executive, Richard has also held senior academic posts in several universities and was Principal of the first NHS multidisciplinary higher education college. 

Until 2013, he was CEO of the Royal Society for Public Health. He has also acted as Managing Director for several commercial concerns and has been an adviser to the World Health Organisation for over 30 years, as well as to a number of individual countries. Until April 2019 he was a Board Member of Public Health England (appointed by the Secretary of State for Health) and also the UK Public Health Register. 


Until the end of 2014 he chaired the national body responsible for developing pharmacy and public health (also a Ministerial appointment). He also chaired the Board for the 32-nation initiative to improve primary care services for children and adolescents (MOCHA). In 2017, Richard was asked to chair the External Review of the United Nations Global Health Programme at the United Nations University.   

Richard is an Honorary Fellow of both the Royal Society of Biology (by Distinction) and the Royal Society for Public Health. He was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the American Public Health Association in 2006 for his international work and is one of only a few non-pharmacists in 186 years to be awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. He holds an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Brunel University and is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Chester, which awarded him a Doctorate in Public Health. He was made a CBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List for his contribution to Public Health.

He said: "I feel deeply honoured to receive this recognition, although I am extremely conscious that I am a product of the support, commitment and ideas offered by family and colleagues. It is absolutely true to say that 'nobody is an island' and I am so very grateful to everyone who has helped me through my career, including colleagues here at the University of Chester. "  

Friday, March 25

  • Ceremony 4 

Kate Spall will receive an honorary degree of Master of Arts (MA) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the support of cancer patients through the Pamela Northcott Fund. 

Kate is an advocate and campaigner for the rights of cancer patients to access new innovative treatments. Kate’s accolades include Inspiring Woman of the Year, Cheshire Woman of the Year, Downing Street Charity Champion and Order of Mercy Medal for Distinguished Voluntary Service. 

What began in 2006 as a quest to save her mother, Pamela Northcott’s life, evolved into a 15-year journey of voluntary work, helping many hundreds of cancer patients access new life-extending cancer treatments. Kate became an expert in NHS cancer commissioning in England, Scotland and Wales and a successful advocate at defending patients who were refused funding for new cancer treatments by their NHS Trust’s Individual Funding Request (IFR) Panels.   

Kate forensically studied cancer commissioning policy and the decision-making process both nationally and locally. Armed with this knowledge, Kate embarked on a ‘David and Goliath’ battle with the Welsh Government. David won. Her mother Pam became the first patient in Wales to access a new cancer drug for kidney cancer. Sadly, the battle had taken nine months and the drugs came too late. Pam passed away four months later.  

On August 13 2007, the day after Pam’s death, Kate launched The Pamela Northcott Fund. Kate was passionate that cancer patients had free access to expert support and advocacy to help them navigate the very complex path of “exceptional funding requests.” She went on to win funding for the drug for 70 kidney cancer patients within six months of Pam’s death.

Kate engaged with leading oncologists worldwide and created a dossier of compelling evidence to enable early access to the drug for all kidney cancer patients prior to NICE appraisal. Within 12 months the Welsh NHS had approved use and funding to kidney cancer patients. Kate was then asked to be Expert Patient Witness for the NICE appraisal. The drug, along with three similar novel treatments, became standard treatments for kidney cancer patients in the UK.  

Hundreds of patients contacted Kate with similar stories of new drugs for a multitude of cancers being refused due to cost and delays in NICE appraisals. She took on every case and ensured over 300 patients gained NHS funding for their specific cancer. Kate has advised over 4,000 cancer patients on their rights to treatment, second opinions, helped them locate clinical trials and perhaps most importantly, listened with empathy to their individual stories.   

Kate campaigned and successfully lobbied the government for a higher cost threshold for life extending treatments and a more streamlined, and less bureaucratic process. She also engaged the media to ensure access to new treatments were top of the agenda. The Cancer Drugs Fund provided a stop gap to this and has provided new life-extending cancer drugs to over 80,000 patients.  

Kate has been a board member for Cancer Research UK Patient Involvement panel, advised national cancer charities and delivered training and advice to NHS management teams and senior nurses on patient rights and overcoming bureaucracy within the NHS.   

Kate has mentored teen cancer patients, sent over 200 luxury “treat boxes” to patients undergoing cancer treatment UK-wide and connected patients with philanthropists who funded their treatment directly. 


In 2019, Kate began a new challenge, to return to education and train to be a lawyer at the University of Law Chester. In 2020 Kate gained her Qualifying Degree in Law and in 2021 undertook and gained a Distinction in the LPC - a solicitor’s academic qualification alongside a First Class Master’s of Law.    

She said: “It is a great honour to receive this generous recognition of my campaigning and advocacy work for people living with cancer.  I am truly delighted to receive an Honorary Master’s from the University of Chester.”

  • Ceremony 5 

Professor Dennis Dunn MBE JP DL will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to higher education.  

Dennis Dunn is Chairman of Mid Cheshire Hospitals, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire and High Sheriff of Cheshire in nomination for 2023. Former Pro Vice-Chancellor International of the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and Dean of MMU in Cheshire, he is a specialist in Business Information Systems and has advised commercial organisations and universities around the world. He is the former Chairman of BITWorld, holding international convocations in India, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt and Ecuador.

Dennis has served as Expert Advisor to European Commissioned projects and is currently Visiting Professor at Huizhou University in China. A former magistrate’s court Chairman, in the UK, Dennis has served on the boards of a number of organisations and is a national Trustee of the British Red Cross, following his appointment to the Board in 2019.  

Dennis was made an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to higher education, awarded Honorary Fellowship of MMU and holds a number of international awards.

He said: “I am gratified that the University bestows through recognition that my professional life has meaning and impact and am delighted to join the ranks of its distinguished honorands.”

  • Ceremony 6 

Professor Paul Lincoln OBE will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Health (DPH) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public health.  

Paul Lincoln has worked in public health at local, national and international levels in the public and third sector. He was a Director of a Government national public health agency and Chief executive of the National Heart Forum and UK Health Forum (UKHF.) Prior to that he worked in the NHS and Local Government. He has been at the forefront of many national and international developments on the prevention of non-communicable diseases - advocating for healthy public policy and high impact quick return interventions to address at scale the causes of avoidable and preventable early death, illness, disability and health inequalities.

He has been involved in focusing public, professional and political attention on the commercial determinants of health in particular the huge harm caused to society by health damaging industries that destroy the public’s health - in particular the tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods, fossil fuel and automotive industries.  Advocating for effective high impact and sustainable interventions to improve the publics’ health.

In the third sector he had the freedom to develop independent and influential not-for-profit public health alliances on the prevention of interlinked non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as through the UK Health Forum and obesity and alcohol health alliances. 

Under his leadership, the UK Health Forum developed leading edge modelling of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors and the analysis of impact of national level policy and programme interventions.


He was responsible for developing/informing and implementing many national public health policy and program areas such as HIV:AIDS, Sexual health, cardiovascular disease prevention, cancer, the promotion of physical activity/active travel, tackling obesity, oral health/fluoridation, workplace health,  primary care, air pollution, healthy nutrition, folic acid and black and ethnic minority health.

At NICE, he has overseen the development of national guidance in many areas including air pollution, tobacco prevention, treatment and control, workplace health, pharmacy health and wellbeing, behaviour changes, diabetes prevention and management and some COVID-19 guidance, as well as contributing to many other NICE committees

He has been the Chair and member of over 50 national level Government and scientific expert public health advisory groups for over three decades. He has been an adviser on many public health issues to the World Health Organisation, World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Commission and other national governments and a Board member of Public Health England.

He is currently the Chair of one of the National Institute of Clinical and Health Excellence standing Public Health Advisory Committees and Chairs their Diabetes guidelines development Committees. He also chairs the cross-Government Alcohol Advisory Group for the Government Office of Health Improvement and Disparities. He is involved as a co-investigator with research on the links between trade and health led by the University of Chester and is a strategic adviser to many national charities and public health professional organisations.

Paul has degrees in Biochemistry and Genetics and postgraduate qualifications in Public Health, Management and education from Leicester, Leeds and Birmingham Universities. He was awarded an OBE in the 2008 New Year honours list for services to healthcare and is an honorary fellow/member of the Royal College of Physicians, the Association of Directors of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health and a Professorial Fellow to the Royal Society of Public Health. He is also a visiting Professor at the University of Chester. He has written many journal and book articles on public health and has been involved as a funder, reviewer and investigator with many major public health research programmes.

He said: “I am very proud of my association with the University of Chester because of its innovative inter-sectoral sectoral approach to tackling the real and most important determinants of the public’s health.”


Share this content