Hollywood actor John Hurt flattered by ceremony in Lincoln Cathedral
Hollywood actor John Hurt has pledged his support for higher education after becoming an honorary doctor of arts at the University of Lincoln.
The Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winner received the honour in recognition for his work in film, television and the theatre. His career spans six decades and more than 100 films, including The Elephant Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Harry Potter.
Mr Hurt was among the hundreds of students in Lincoln Cathedral on Wednesday, January 23, who braved the sleet and snow to graduate with bachelors and masters degrees. And although he said that he did not have any advice for the new graduates other than to "press on", he told the Echo: "I think absolutely that people today should have a university education. It wouldn't have suited me but, I suppose in the end, when I went to the Royal Academy, that was a university education.
"I'm enormously flattered and absolutely thrilled by the honour from Lincoln."
And he jokingly added: "It's just a terrible shame it's taken me so long to get a degree myself."
Mr Hurt boarded at a Lincoln grammar school, now known as Christ's Hospital School, and would often visit Lincoln Cathedral for church services.
"I've never seen the nave full like that and it was quite extraordinary," he added. "It was incredibly poignant and fantastic. You couldn't ask for a more wonderful place to have an academic celebration."
Among the others graduating was mum-of-three and first-class honours nursing student Natalie Liddle, 29, of Doncaster. She said: "I am very proud to be a graduate of the university and endeavour to always continue to be an ambassador.
"My lasting memory will be that I came here for a professional degree and have discovered myself."
But a student who overcame a rare brain infection and a six-month coma to complete his degree was unable to attend.
In 2009, Sam Ellafi was just three months away from graduating with a masters degree in architecture before he was struck down with the condition and a rare viral infection in the same week.
He was placed in an enforced coma and had to return to his home of Germany. When he woke, Sami, now 42, suffered from complete paralysis and spent 18-months in a rehabilitation clinic. Sami was only able to move his neck, but gradually learned to use his left hand again, which is when he began to write his thesis.
Although confined to a specially adapted wheelchair, Sami was set to travel for nine hours by ferry and car to get to Lincoln for his ceremony.
But due to the weather and his poor health, he had to make the tough decision to miss the graduation he overcame so much for and stay at his home of Mönchengladbach.
He said: "I am delighted to have completed my degree course and to have graduated with an MA in architecture, however, I am very disappointed that I was unable to attend the ceremony.
"I was excited about making the journey back to Lincoln – I even had my gown delivered to my home in Germany – and I was most looking forward to visiting my wonderful tutor, Kathleen Watt, to give her a thank you handshake.'' he added.
"Kathleen was incredibly supportive throughout my studies and I hope to be able to visit her and the university again very soon."
IN PICTURES: University of Lincoln Graduation with John Hurt...