Inspiring figures celebrated at Loughborough University’s summer graduation ceremonies with honorary degrees

Deborah Cadman seated in the centre wearing a red robe and hat. To the left is Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Jennings and on the right is Chancellor Lord Seb Coe. They both wear graduation robes.

As part of the University’s summer graduation ceremonies, four remarkable individuals were awarded honorary degrees for their outstanding contributions to society.

Deborah Cadman OBE, Warren East CBEEbony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE and Professor Robert Allison CBE were all recognised and celebrated by the University community throughout last week (18-21 July) for their impact on public services, technological innovations, and sport. 

Deborah Cadman OBE  

Alumna Deborah Cadman OBE was applauded by the University for her success and services in urban regeneration, local government, as well as her work that has championed equality, diversity and inclusion.  

Deborah began studying Social Administration at the University in 1981. During her time here, she made full use of the renowned sporting facilities, particularly when playing netball. 

Since then, Deborah has spent more than 30 years working in public services and is the current Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, one of the largest local authorities in Europe. She was appointed to the role two years ago as its first Chief Executive of Colour – a notable moment for diversity within the city. 

She played a pivotal role in ensuring the 2022 Commonwealth Games were inclusive and accessible as well as being a source of pride for the city of Birmingham.  

She has previously won the First Women Award for Public Service, been presented with an OBE for services to local government, as well as receiving a commendation in the Chief Executive of the Year category for the Inclusive Companies Awards 2019. If that wasn’t enough, she is also listed in the Local Government Chronicle’s ‘100 Most Influential in the Sector’.  

Warren East CBE  

The University has recognised former Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Holdings plc for his outstanding leadership contributions in the field of engineering and science throughout his career. 

As a leader for a variety of companies who have been at the forefront of technological innovation across the globe, Warren’s journey began when he graduated with a master’s in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford in 1983.  

His first roles were at Datatype Ltd and Texas Instruments, where he progressed into numerous leadership positions before moving to ARM in 2001, working as their Chief Operating Officer and shortly after, Chief Executive.  

In 2014, he became the Chief Operating Officer of Rolls-Royce Holdings plc and Chair of the Board’s technology committee. The following year, he transitioned to Chief Executive and went on to steer the company through what has been described as their most turbulent period in its history.  

He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society and was made a CBE in 2014 in the New Year honours for his services to the technology industry.  

Warren is also known for his philanthropic efforts, establishing The Relithan Charitable Trust with his wife, which supports STEM education. He also champions STEM activities at his previous educational institutions Wadham College and Monmouth School. 

Three men wearing academic gowns and one woman wearing a dress and jacket. One man is sitting at a table with a ceremonial mace resting on top.

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE 

Former England cricketer Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE made history in 2001 as the first Black woman to represent England in international cricket. 

Now, Rainford-Brent is an established broadcaster and the Cricket Non-Executive Director for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), referred to as a ‘trailblazer’ by the organisation’s Chair.   

The honorary award she has been given by Loughborough – in recognition of her outstanding contribution to cricket, TV and radio broadcasting, and her work championing diversity in sport – was presented at a ceremony held on Tuesday 

She said: “The emotions are pretty high today. Loughborough University has meant a lot to me throughout my playing career. I spent many years here chasing the dream of playing for my country and it really set me up for life – it’s special.  

It’s nice to have a moment and milestone to reflect on this journey so far. I’m feeling really honoured and to have my mum here too means so much.” 

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE,

Professor Robert Allison CBE 

Last, but certainly not least, an honourary degree was awarded to Professor Robert Allison CBE, who many of you might know better as ‘VC Bob’. 

From 2012-2021, Bob was appointed as the eighth Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University. He was a passionate advocate for the positive impact education can have on young people, and students remained at the heart of his plans for the University.  

Staff and students would often see Bob taking part in volunteering and fundraising activities, as well as cheering on our athletes and sports teams – the latter of which has been recognised by the name of the ‘Allison Stand’ at the University’s stadium as a tribute to him. From popping into halls of residence for breakfast to congratulating prospective students on the University’s Clearing hotline, Bob was committed to providing a fantastic student experience.  

This commitment was even more evident during the pandemic, when he spent several days on campus over Christmas to support those students who were unable to travel home. For those isolating, Bob was often spotted out riding on his bike in and around campus to provide pizza and ice cream to lift students’ spirits.  

During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor of the University, Loughborough rose into the top ten in every national league table, and significantly expanded its commercial, research and teaching buildings, as well as halls of accommodation. One of these was the development of a whole new campus, Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  

Since stepping down from his role, Bob has dedicated his time and support to local organisations including the Air Ambulance Service, St Phillip’s Centre in Loughborough, the Leicester Cathedral Music Foundation, and the Leicestershire Scouts to name a few.  

His contribution to research, education and the student experience has been noticed through multiple accolades, such as the Cuthbert Peek Award from the Royal Geographical Society, the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support in Education, as well as being appointed a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education and supporting young people’s talent, equality and achievement. 

A man standing and smiling at a graduation ceremony wearing an academic gown and hat.

Congratulations to Deborah, WarrenEbony-Jewel and Robert on receiving their honorary degrees from Loughborough University.