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Teacher of the Year and world-leading cholera scientist to be honoured

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Figures from science, literature and education will receive honorary degrees at the University of Stirling’s Summer Graduation ceremonies next week.

Elaine Wyllie, Dr Rita Colwell, Professor Zhengshuan Li and Alan Simpson OBE will join more than 1000 Stirling graduands receiving their awards at ceremonies on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th June.

Former local head teacher and Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Teacher of the Year, Elaine Wyllie, is recognised for her contribution to the community with the ‘Daily Mile’ initiative at St. Ninians Primary School, Stirling.   The programme has attracted national and international praise from healthcare experts for its innovative approach to tackling the growing issue of childhood obesity and is now the focus of a study by experts at the University of Stirling.  The Daily Mile sees every pupil walk or run for up to one mile every day.  It has received support from the Scottish Government and has been introduced into schools throughout the country as well as in other parts of the UK.

Professor and Chief Science Officer at CosmosID.Inc, Dr Rita Colwell, will be recognised for her outstanding contribution to marine biotechnology and influences in environmental microbiology. Dr Colwell is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and safe drinking water issues in both developed and developing countries.

Professor Zhengshuan Li will receive the award of Doctor of the University for the promotion of Scottish literature in China. A translator of poetry, Professor Zhengshuan Li is currently working on translating the poems of Robert Burns into contemporary Chinese. This work is crucial to the link between the University of Stirling, Hebei Normal University and the Chinese educational authorities.

Alan Simpson OBE, Chair of University Court from 2007 to 2015, will receive the award of Doctor of the University for his contribution to the University and for services to higher education. During his tenure he fostered strong relationships within the UK higher education sector and led the University of Stirling through a period of growth and investment.

Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “We are honoured to confer honorary degrees on such outstanding individuals and role models.

“As Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence it is a privilege to recognise Elaine Wyllie’s contribution to the community. Elaine is an inspirational headteacher who has taken a fun and simple idea for exercise and turned it into a positive way to improve the health and wellbeing of children.

“Dr Rita Colwell’s contribution to science is awe-inspiring.  Her research spans the globe and her discoveries around cholera have changed the research world’s perception of that disease.

“Professor Zhengshuan Li’s contribution to the promotion of Scottish culture is not only evidence of his commitment to the enduring friendship between our cultures, but also of his continued support for the University of Stirling’s links with China.

“Finally, in Alan Simpson, we honour a graduand who is an ambassador and champion for Scottish higher education. It is a reflection of his vision and leadership that the University of Stirling is so strongly placed for the quality of our research and teaching. Alan embodies the sense of commitment and ambition that we aim to instil in all our graduating students.

“I extend my congratulations to all of our graduands and honorary graduands on their achievements.”

The ceremonies will celebrate the achievements of graduating students from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, the Faculty of Natural Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the Stirling Management School. 

Notes for editors
Background information

The Graduation ceremonies will be held in the Gannochy National Tennis Centre at the University of Stirling at 10am and 2.30pm on Wednesday 29 June, and 10am and 2.30pm on Thursday 30 June.

To register interest in media opportunities on the above dates, please call 01786 466 687 or email

Ceremony details:

Ceremony 1 - Wednesday 29 June 2016, 10am

Faulty of Health Sciences and Sport: Health Sciences

Faculty of Natural Sciences

Honorary Graduand: Dr Rita Colwell 

Ceremony 2 - Wednesday 29 June 2016, 2.30pm

Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport: Sport

Stirling Management School

Honorary Graduand: Alan Simpson OBE

Ceremony 3 - Thursday 30 June 2016, 10am

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Honorary Graduand: Professor Zhengshuan Li

Ceremony 4- Thursday 30 June 2016, 2:30pm

Faculty of Social Sciences

Honorary Graduand: Ms Elaine Wyllie

University of Stirling

The University of Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Stirling is committed to carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe - addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society. Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community. At almost 50 years young, Stirling retains a pioneering spirit and a passion for innovation. Its scenic central Scotland campus - complete with a loch, castle and golf course- is home to more than 11,000 students and 1400 staff representing 115 nationalities. This includes an ever-expanding base for postgraduate study.

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