A screen legend who has enjoyed more than 60 years both in front of and behind the camera has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Kingston University. Lord Richard Attenborough, who has directed, produced and starred in more than 70 films during a celebrated career dating from 1942, was named an Honorary Doctor of Arts.
Lord Attenborough’s long line of critically-acclaimed films includes the1982 epic Gandhi, which won eight Oscars including one for best director. Now aged 83, he remains as active as ever and has just finished work on his latest production, Closing the Ring, starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and Mischa Barton. His own appearances in Brighton Rock, 10 Rillington Place, The Great Escape and, more recently, The Lost World – Jurassic Park, have also made him a firm favourite with movie-goers over the years.
When not in the director’s chair or on set, Lord Attenborough devotes much of his time to supporting a string of charities. He has been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 1987 and has worked tirelessly to reduce child poverty and help people with disabilities. He is currently President of the Muscular Dystrophy Group of Great Britain and President of the Gandhi Foundation.
Lord Attenborough’s Honorary Doctorate, which he collected from Kingston University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mary Stuart, in a ceremony at London’s Barbican Centre, is the latest addition to a sizeable collection of awards. Knighted by the Queen in 1976, his other accolades include the Evening Standard Film Award for 40 years’ service to British cinema and the Martin Luther King Junior Peace Prize for outstanding contributions to European cultural heritage.
Throughout his career, Lord Attenborough has had a long association with the university sector, following in the footsteps of his father, Frederick, who was Principal at University College Leicester. The life peer, who has been Chancellor at the University of Sussex since 1998, believes higher education has an important role to play in promoting the arts and is a strong proponent of encouraging more people to complete degrees. “Almost the greatest regret of my life is that, because of World War Two, I never went to University so my Chancellorship at Sussex and, indeed, my Honorary Degree from Kingston University means a great deal to me,” Lord Attenborough said. The prolific film-maker also holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Leicester, Kent, Sussex, the American International University in London, Newcastle University, the University of Wales Bangor, the former Manchester Polytechnic and Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
The Dean of Kingston University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Gail Cunningham, said it was a significant coup to have such a successful actor and director affiliated to the University. “We are absolutely delighted Lord Attenborough has accepted this award. He is a tremendous inspiration to our students, many of whom go on to have successful careers in the film industry and the creative arts,” Professor Cunningham said.