‘I’m covered in degreeeeees’ – Comedian Eddie Izzard to be honoured by Sunderland University

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FUNNYMAN Eddie Izzard is to be honoured by Sunderland University.

The comedian and charity runner will be joined by news reader Alastair Stewart and North East Olympian Charlie Spedding, as they don mortar boards to collect their honorary degrees.

Also being recognised at the university’s annual awards ceremonies are two leading figures from the world of art – Norman Cornish, the last surviving artist of the Pitman Academy, and Ray Spencer MBE, executive director of the Customs House in South Shields.

The week of graduation ceremonies, beginning on Monday, are an opportunity for graduates to celebrate their success with friends, family and loved ones.

University vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Fidler, said: “Our honoraries have all made highly significant contributions within their fields and will inspire our graduates as they celebrate their academic success and embark on their careers.

“We look forward to welcoming them and are proud to pay tribute to them.”

Izzard is one of the foremost stand-up comedians of his generation and has won two Emmy Awards during his career.

Since his first stage appearance in London’s West End in 1993, he has repeatedly sold out across the world as well as broken box office records in the UK and America.

In August 2009 Eddie ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief, raising £1.85million.

He is to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the university.

Alastair Stewart OBE, who is to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts, has presented the ITN news for many years and was also presenter of ITV’s Police, Camera, Action.

He started his career working for Southern Television in 1976, joining News at Ten in 1989.

He was the network’s Washington Correspondent, covered the Gulf War in the 1990s, and has presented many of ITN’s landmark programmes, including the Royal Weddings of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York. Charlie Spedding is the English record holder for the marathon, a winner of the London Marathon, and the last British athlete to win a medal in the Olympic Marathon.

He was born in Ferryhill, County Durham, and followed his father Joe into the pharmacy industry, graduating from the forerunner of Sunderland University, Sunderland Polytechnic, in 1974.

In the early 80s Spedding briefly quit his career as a pharmacist to focus on his lifelong dream of becoming a professional athlete.

In 1984 he won the London Marathon, and later that year he won a Bronze medal in the Los Angeles Olympics.

To this day he is the English record holder for the marathon, at two hours, eight minutes and 33 seconds.

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NORMAN Cornish will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts, and in particular, in support of the mining community.

He began working an the pit in 1933, aged 14.

At aged 15 he joined the famous Pitman’s Academy and began painting and drawing the world around him, eventually becoming a celebrated artist.

His vivid paintings of ordinary life feature both realism and a nostalgic look at a world that no longer exists outside of his canvases.

Aged 92, he still continues to chronicle the everyday lives of the people of Spennymoor.

Ray Spencer, who will to receive an Honorary Fellowship, joined The Custom House in 2000 when the institution was on the verge of bankruptcy.

He was tasked with saving South Shields’ community theatre, cinema and art gallery.

He has turned around the fortunes of The Customs House with audiences flooding into the venue, making it a shining example of artistic and financial success.