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Former chief inspector of prisons and leading environmentalist among Stirling’s winter graduates

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More than 1,500 graduates – and two esteemed honorary graduates – are today celebrating their achievements at the University of Stirling’s winter graduation ceremonies.

Professor Malcolm MacLeod, Senior Deputy Principal, conferred degrees at two ceremonies, with David Strang, a former police chief who also served as a prisons chief inspector, and Martin Valenti, a leading environmentalist, becoming honorary graduates.

Mr Strang became a Doctor of the University at a morning ceremony, alongside graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, and Stirling Management School. He is recognised for his outstanding contribution, as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, to ensuring due process, quality and integrity of public services, and for championing the rights and wellbeing of vulnerable people in prison.

Spending more than three decades in the police, including roles as Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and later Lothian and Borders Police, Mr Strang was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2002. He worked as Chief Inspector of Prisons between 2013 and 2018 and has had a long involvement in the reform of criminal justice in Scotland – having worked on the McInnes Committee Summary Justice Review (2001-04); Scottish Sentencing Commission (2003-06); and Scottish Prisons Commission (2007-08).

Mr Strang was the chair, and is now Honorary Vice President, of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending. He is currently chair of the inquiry into NHS mental health services in Tayside.

Mr Strang said: “I am delighted and deeply honoured to receive the award of Doctor of the University from the University of Stirling.

“I have been associated with this University for more than a decade, pursuing better outcomes in criminal justice. I firmly believe in the importance of academics and professional practitioners working together in order to tackle inequality and injustice."

David Strang

David Strang received an honorary doctorate at the University of Stirling ceremony.

Working in a variety of environmental roles for almost 30 years, Mr Valenti is Strategic Director for the Scottish Land Commission, on secondment from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). He was recognised at this afternoon’s ceremony – alongside graduates from the Faculties of Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences – for his outstanding contribution to the protection of the environment through these various roles, and as a founding member and Vice-Chair of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group.

Mr Valenti said: “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to accept this recognition for the work I have done in making the case for protecting Scotland’s beautiful environment.

“There are certain events that happen in your life that stand out as extraordinary – and receiving an honorary doctorate from this University is one such event. I never thought that, one day, I would be considered amongst the impressive alumni of Stirling and I shall aspire to live up to the trust placed in me by those who nominated me and to this wonderful University.”

Professor MacLeod said: “I am delighted to honour two outstanding honorary graduates at our winter graduation ceremonies. They are role models to our graduates and embody the University’s values of excellence, ambition and openness.

“David Strang is a high-profile figure in Scotland and is held in high esteem by policymakers, service users and the wider public for his integrity and years of service in the police and prisons. He is passionate and compassionate in championing the rights and wellbeing of people living with vulnerability in prisons, and those in contact with police services.

“We also celebrate Martin Valenti, who has spent almost three decades working in environmental roles. Martin is exceptionally enthusiastic about our environment and a force for positive change.

“Martin has successfully delivered high-profile projects on climate change and on a variety of environmental issues, and – in his current role –he is impressively proactive in creating effective collaborations that deliver innovative approaches to the management of our environment.”

Dianne Theakstone

Dianne Theakstone, pictured with her dog Merlin, graduated with a PhD Applied Social Science.

It was also a very special day for visually impaired graduate Dianne Theakstone – and her four-legged friend Merlin, who sported a bowtie and mortarboard for the occasion.

Ms Theakstone graduated with a PhD Applied Social Science – after previously achieving an MSc Housing Studies and MSc Applied Social Research during her 13 years at Stirling. The 35-year-old first chose to study at Stirling in 2005, due to its excellent support networks for visually impaired students, and is now working across two projects as a Research Assistant at the University.

“Merlin has been my side during my studies and it’s very much his day as it is mine,” said Dianne. “We’re both delighted to be graduating today – it is a real celebration of our time at Stirling, which has been rewarding, stimulating and inspiring.”

Professor MacLeod added: “I extend my congratulations to all of our graduates and honorary graduates on their hard-earned achievements."

The winter graduation follows recent University of Stirling ceremonies in Singapore, Oman and Inverness. Graduates will benefit from excellent job prospects with 97 per cent of our undergraduate leavers, and 96 per cent of our postgraduate leavers, in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

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