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Honorary degrees awarded today [Thursday, July 20]

Press release issued: 20 July 2006

Bristol University is awarding honorary degrees to two prominent people at today’s degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building [Thursday, July 20].

Bristol University is awarding honorary degrees to two prominent people at today’s degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building [Thursday, July 20].

John Hunt, Professor of the History and Theory of Landscape, University of Pennsylvania, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Letters at the 11.15 am ceremony.

Born in Gloucester in 1936, John was educated at Bristol Grammar School. He read English at King’s College, Cambridge, between 1954 and 1957, and after graduating spent a period as a teaching fellow and instructor in America. Shortly after, he returned to England to undertake a PhD at Bristol University in the English Department, graduating in 1964.

He lectured in English at the University of York between 1964 and 1975 and published his first book in 1968, a revised version of his PhD entitled The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination.

The success of this publication and others that followed led him to a Readership position at Bedford College with his first Chair conferred between 1975 and 1982, this also led him to develop his passion for the history of gardens.

After Bedford College closed he accepted a post as Regius Chair of English Literature at the University of Leiden in Holland. Garden history has been John’s main interest from the mid 1980s onwards. The renowned Journal of Garden History was published in 1981 and equally successful Word & Image – A Journal of Verbal-Visual enquiry followed in 1985.

In 1986, having left Leiden for a period at East Anglia University, he published Garden and Grove: the Italian Renaissance garden in the English imagination.

Following this he joined the world’s most prestigious institution promoting garden studies: Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Washington D.C. As Director of Landscape studies for several years he transformed it into a place for international research. Through this he was able to forge links with other research centres in Washington.

From 1994 until today John has been Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. His list of publications continue to grow with his book on The Afterlife of Gardens and his edited series, Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture is at the cutting edge of the field. His european reputation has also been recognised by the French government’s conferment of the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

Geoffrey Matthews, Vice-Chairman, Bank of Ireland, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Laws at the 2.30 pm ceremony.

Geoff was educated at Taunton School. On leaving school he studied history at Bristol University, graduating in 1963. 

After University he entered a management training programme at WD & HO Wills, a tobacco manufacturer in Bristol. Having served as Project Manager, then Factory Manager, his career progressed and in 1981 he was promoted to Manufacturing Director of all UK operations, with responsibility for over 12,000 people,

Geoff was asked to join Elizabeth Shaw, the chocolate and confectionary maker as Managing Director. Seizing his next business opportunity, the company came up for sale and he borrowed £25 million and bought the company himself. He eventually sold the business but it became clear the business couldn't survive without his direction. He was asked to come back to help acquire and develop other companies worldwide. Seven years later he had helped the company to buy nine other businesses and establish Leaf Group as one of the top ten confectioners in the World.

In 1992, he joined the Bristol Development Corporation, whose role was to help develop inward investment into the city, one of which was the development of Temple Quay.

In 1996 he was invited to join the Bristol & West Building Society as a board member, and after demutualisation and sale to the Bank of Ireland he is now Vice-Chair of the Bank’s UK business.

Geoff’s advice on all aspects of financial operation and commercial development are invaluable, hence he was asked to steer the University’s pension funds, which he did for a decade. During this time he also became a member of Council and was Chair of the Estates Committee from 2000 until 2002.

During his period as President of the Anchor Society he personally raised £78,000 within two weeks, in support of the elderly. His other roles include Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers and Governor of his old school, Taunton School. He was also President of Young Bristol; a charitable organisation providing a range of activities for young people in Bristol.  During his eight-year term he was instrumental in the fund raising and building of a youth activity centre at Poole’s Wharf.

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