World famous musician plays at Coventry University graduation ceremony as he is awarded Honorary Doctorate

Wayne Marshall in his Coventry University graduation gown and cap playing the organ at Coventry Cathedral

World famous musician plays at Coventry University graduation ceremony as he is awarded Honorary Doctorate

University news

Monday 18 March 2024

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Coventry University presented world famous pianist, organist and conductor Wayne Marshall OBE with an Honorary Doctorate of Arts in recognition of outstanding services to music and musical performance.

As well as receiving the honour, Wayne played a 20-minute program as the students entered the ceremony at Coventry Cathedral, which is also where he recorded his first commercial solo organ CD for EMI. 

I'm extremely grateful for this wonderful award, it's a great honour. I first came here to Coventry back in 1990 when I made my first commercial organ CD on this amazing instrument. 

My journey to getting here has been long; I have been working all over the world and have been very fortunate to be able to travel. This is a wonderful institution and I'm very happy, it's been a real pleasure to be here today. Thank you very much indeed, Coventry University.

Wayne Marshall OBE

Wayne, who began piano studies aged just three and has appeared on BBC Proms, played pieces by J.S. Bach – his famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and Franz Schmidt. The Prince of Denmark's March was played for the entrance of the students, and the Final from Symphonie no 1 by Louis Vierne was played at the end of the ceremony on 19th March.

Dr Alison Walker will also receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science in recognition of dedicated contribution to the enhancement of pre-hospital care across the West Midlands and the country.

Alison has worked for the NHS for more than 30 years and been with West Midlands Ambulance Service as Medical Director and Honorary Medical Advisor since 2010. She is Chair of JRCALC, the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee which sets the guidelines for how all ambulance staff operate from a clinical perspective across the UK.

Last year she also received a prestigious Gold Medal from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine for her work developing links between hospitals and ambulance services during the pandemic.

Alison is also heavily involved in research, not only undertaking investigations herself but supporting others to make steps forward in medical care.

I am really delighted to be receiving the Honorary Doctorate as it's lovely to have that level of recognition from an academic body. I was supposed to be coming down a year ago but couldn’t make it as I had a brain haemorrhage and got to see the NHS from a different perspective, as a patient.

Having spent three months in hospital and been further supported during my recovery, I really appreciate everything that staff within the NHS do to support patients every single day. The care I received means that I am not only able to return to work but also to attend this ceremony and enjoy this fantastic event.

Dr Alison Walker

Coventry University will also honour Professor Graham Henderson CBE with an Honorary Doctorate of Education in recognition of significant contribution and commitment to Higher Education.

Graham, who graduated from Coventry University in 1975 with a degree in maths, went on to work in higher education for 40 years, most recently as Vice-Chancellor of Teesside University before he retired, where, among his achievements, he led Teesside to become the first ever modern (post-92) university to be recognised as THE University of the Year, a landmark moment for the higher education sector.

No stranger to a graduation ceremony, the former VC attended every single one during his 12-year tenure at Teesside.

I used to talk to all the parents about how it looks like nothing just to walk from one side of the stage to the other to receive an award, but their children – the graduates – would probably be terrified. I still remember my graduation day at Coventry Cathedral in 1975. It was the first time my parents came to visit me in Coventry, so it was a big, big event.

Although I’ve been to so many large graduation ceremonies, not to mention the smaller ones throughout the years, ceremonies overseas and ones that I attended before I became a Vice-Chancellor, I think I will still be nervous this time as it’s such a special day for me personally.

Professor Graham Henderson CBE

Graham has also only been back to Coventry once since he graduated and so he is very much looking forward to visiting his old student haunts...if they’re still there.

Find out more about Coventry University graduations.