COMEDIAN Lenny Henry has received an honorary degree from Oxford University in recognition of his charity work.

The TV funnyman was among eight people honoured at the university's Encaenia ceremony today. 

The Dudley-born star, 63, is well-known for co-founding Comic Relief, to which the public has donated more than £1 billion over the past 30 years.

Oxford Mail: Lenny Henry (Ed Nix)Lenny Henry (Ed Nix)

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Also receiving honours were: Professor Ara Warkes Darzi, Baron Darzi of Denham – surgeon, academic and politician; Dr Mo Ibrahim – telecommunications entrepreneur and philanthropist; Professor William Chester Jordan – American medievalist and Professor of History at Princeton University; Dr Jane Lubchenco – University Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University; Professor Theda Skocpol – American social scientist and Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University; Professor Susan Solomon – world-leading atmospheric scientist and Professor of Environmental Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bernard Taylor – scientist, Deputy Steward of the University of Oxford and Honorary Fellow of St John's College; and Wim Wenders – pioneer of new German cinema.

Oxford Mail: (Ed Nix)(Ed Nix)

Encaenia, which a Greek term meaning 'festival of renewal' or 'commencement' is held annually on the Wednesday of the ninth week of Trinity term.

The day started with the honorands, heads of colleges, university dignitaries, holders of the Oxford degrees of Doctor of divinity, civil law, medicine, letters, science, and music, assemble in full academic dress.

Oxford Mail: (Ed Nix)(Ed Nix)

They enjoyed peaches, strawberries and Champagne before walking in procession to the Sheldonian Theatre in Broad Street.

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Oxford Mail: (Ed Nix)(Ed Nix)

The university dignitaries entered the theatre in procession, with those receiving honorary degrees waiting in the Divinity School, where they signed their names in the Honorary Degrees Book.

Once the proceedings were opened by the Chancellor, each honorand was introduced by a public orator who delivered a traditional 'Creweian Oration' on the events of the past year and in commemoration of the university's benefactors.

It was followed by a lunch and garden party.

Oxford Mail: (Ed Nix)(Ed Nix)

The Oxford Encaenia is the surviving part of a more extensive ceremony called The Act, which used to include musical works composed for the occasion, and traditional features such as a satirical speech by an anonymous speaker known as Terrae Filius – or Son of the Earth.

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Oxford Mail: (Ed Nix)(Ed Nix)

The Act was originally held in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, a setting many people thought unsuitable which prompted its move in 1670 to the Sheldonian Theatre.

By 1760 the ceremony had assumed a form much like today.


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This story was written by Gee Harland, she joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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