Former First Lady of the United States Hilary Clinton waves while crossing the road, at Encaenia 2021


Former United States First Lady and Secretary of State, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and the award-winning author, Jeanette Winterson CBE, were among the six recipients of honorary degrees at Oxford University’s Encaenia ceremony on 22 September 2021

Published: 24 September, 2021



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They received their accolades at the University’s Sheldonian Theatre, alongside: Professor Linda Colley CBE, award-winning professor of History; Professor Dame Sally Davies, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and former Chief Medical Officer for England; Professor Anna Deavere Smith, Professor at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and award-winning actress, playwright, teacher and author; and Baroness Ruth Lister CBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University.

The ceremony, including the traditional public procession, resumed this year after cancellation last year because of the global pandemic.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, and Chair of the Committee on Honorary Degrees, said: 'I am delighted that these six extraordinary women have joined us for this year’s Encaenia ceremony. Their work covers the breadth of human endeavour from the arts and sciences to the world of politics and policy. They have helped to improve the lives of others, they have helped us to see the world more clearly, and they have helped us to imagine a better world. The ceremony is our first in-person event of the academic year, and is a welcome sign that life at the University is returning to normal.’

The honorands’ biographies are as follows:

Professor Linda Colley CBE is an award-winning historian, Princeton University’s Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, and a Fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study. Her seven books span British, imperial and global history since 1700, and have been translated into 15 languages. A Fellow of the British Academy, she has delivered the Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge University, the Wiles Lectures at Queen’s University Belfast, the Robb Lectures at the University of Auckland, and the Prime Minister’s Millennium Lecture. A winner of the Wolfson Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and other awards, she was appointed a CBE for services to history in 2009. Her penultimate work, Acts of Union and Disunion, was also a BBC Radio 4 series; while her most recent and widely praised volume is The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World.

Professor Dame Sally Davies was installed as 40th Master of Trinity College, Cambridge in 2019, following a distinguished global career as a clinical academic and public servant. She has provided scientific leadership on both the local and global stage, including roles with the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the UK government. She was Chief Medical Officer for England and Senior Medical Advisor to the UK government for nine and a half year. She has specifically championed addressing antimicrobial Resistance, making a difference to humans, animals, agriculture and environment across the world. Her long-lasting influence also includes establishing both the National Institute of Health and Genomics England Ltd. She was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2009 and Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 2020.

Professor Anna Deavere Smith is a renowned actress, playwright, teacher, and author. Her ground-breaking work pioneering the style of ‘verbatim theatre’ - looking at current events through interpreting and performing the text of interviews - earned her a place as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and nominations for Tony Awards. She has won two Drama Desk Awards, a MacArthur Award and a National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Obama. She has starred in acclaimed films and television series, including Nurse Jackie and The West Wing. Her most recent work, Notes from the Field, was named among the best theatre of 2016 by The New York Times and a film version aired on HBO in 2018.

Baroness Ruth Lister CBE is Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University. Her career has seen her combat poverty and inequality as an academic, a peer and in the charity sector. She has published influential social texts, served on several prestigious commissions, such as the National Equality Panel, and spent 16 years at the Child Poverty Action Group, of which she is still Honorary President. Baroness Lister has been a Labour peer since 2011, continuing to use her position as a leading social scientist to address human rights, social justice and citizenship. In honour of her longstanding contribution to research and policy, she has been appointed a CBE, Fellow of the British Academy and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent five decades in public service as an advocate, attorney, activist, and volunteer, First Lady of the United States, First Lady of Arkansas, the 67th United States Secretary of State, and presidential candidate. As First Lady (1993–2001) and Senator for New York (2001–2009), she travelled to more than 80 countries as a champion of human rights, democracy, and opportunities for women and girls. In 2016 she became the first woman to earn a major party’s nomination for president and went on to receive 66 million votes in her campaign for President of the United States. Secretary Clinton is the author of nine best-selling books, and host of the podcast You and Me Both.

Jeanette Winterson CBE is a British writer. Her work includes novels, short stories, essays, and books for children. She is published in 19 countries and has won numerous awards. Her first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985), won The Whitbread Prize for best first novel, and later, a BAFTA for Best Drama for her BBC adaptation. Her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2012) is an international bestseller, widely used in schools to promote tolerance and diversity. Her latest novel, Frankisstein: A Love Story, was longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. Her new collection of essays 12 Bytes at AI: How we got here and where we might be going next, was published in July 2021. She is currently working on an eight-part TV adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester and adopted by Pentecostal parents who prepared her to be a missionary. Instead, she left home at 16 and, after a number of odd jobs, read English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. She is Professor of New Writing at the University of Manchester.