A rugby medical officer, nursing leader, TV presenter, and education specialist awarded honorary degrees from Queen Ƶt University

By Press Office

Queen Ƶt University’s (Ƶ) graduation ceremonies were brimming with inspirational personalities this year as a Scottish Rugby chief medical officer, chief nursing officer, television presenter, and a leading outdoor education specialist were awarded honorary degrees.

Sally Gray in her graduation gown and Paul Grice stood in front of a glass framed wooden door

Sally Gray, television presenter, media trainer, business leader, charity volunteer, and Ƶ graduate, spent her early career working with the BBC and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the UK media. Aside from working on shows such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Record Breakers’, and numerous children’s shows for CBBC, she has run a successful media training business which has helped individuals with a story – from Olympic champions to human rights lawyers – to find their voice and engage with audiences. She holds an MBE in recognition of her charity work with young people, and was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University at Ƶ’s ceremony in the Usher Hall on 1st July in recognition of her significant contribution to culture and the creative arts.

L to R, Dr James Robson MBE (Honorary Graduate), Prue Leith and Professor Alex McMahon (Honorary Graduate)

Dr James Robson MBE, former Scottish Rugby Chief Medical Officer was honoured along with Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, at the graduation ceremonies at the Usher Hall on 2nd July. James Robson is a Scottish doctor who, as Scottish Rugby’s Chief Medical Officer, has made an immense contribution to player welfare for generations of Scottish players. He is also a Queen Ƶt graduate. Up until a few months ago, Professor McMahon was Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland. During his tenure, he demonstrated a profound commitment to the nursing profession, championing the interests of healthcare workers and advocating for the highest standards of patient care. His leadership has been characterised by compassion, integrity and a relentless pursuit of excellence during some of the most challenging times for our health service. Both Dr Robertson and Professor McMahon were awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University for their significant contribution to health and public service.

Juliet Roberts sitting on a wooden bench in her graduation gown and hat

Juliet Robertson, one of Scotland’s leading educators specialising in outdoor learning and play, was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education in recognition of her significant contribution to education, and had her degree conferred upon her at a small graduation ceremony at Queen Ƶt University’s recently opened Outdoor Learning Hub and Discovery Trail. Juliet’s passion for nature has been lifelong. In her work as a primary school teacher and as the founder of Creative Star, she has led diverse outdoor learning opportunities for children, provided training for educators, and written highly influential books, including Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths, which have become standard texts for educators. Juliet’s recorded response to the oration delivered in her honour at the graduation ceremony held in the Usher Hall on 2 July was heard by hundreds of new Ƶ graduates, including graduating primary and home economics teachers.

Sir Paul Grice, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Ƶt University, said: "We are delighted that over our three graduation ceremonies, our students have the opportunity to learn about the careers of two healthcare leaders who have worked at the top level of their professions -  Dr James Robson MBE, Scottish Rugby Chief Medical Officer, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer with the NHS, as well as the Ƶ graduate and media expert, Sally Gray, and the outdoor education specialist Juliet Robertson.

James Robson has been part of the medical team for eight Rugby World Cups with the Scotland team and for six British & Irish Lions tours, testament to the respect with which he is held across the game and to his commitment to supporting and enhancing players’ physical wellbeing in a sport that places immense demands on their bodies. His experience and knowledge have been called upon to support the promotion of concussion awareness, and to inform research that supports player welfare initiatives, both in Scotland and internationally. He has advised on and supported changes that make rugby safer, helped develop the first Brain Health Clinic for former international players, administered life-saving treatment during play, and had the privilege of lifting the Calcutta Cup on the pitch along with the Scotland players during the win for Scotland over England in 2024.

“As a nurse working at the highest level of healthcare and in government, Alex McMahon has seamlessly navigated the complex intersections of the NHS, private sector healthcare, government, and the Royal College of Nursing - commanding the confidence of ministers, civil servants, NHS board chairs and chief executives, as well as senior clinicians, frontline staff, patient groups and the public. His collaborative spirit fosters partnerships that enhance patient outcomes and elevate the nursing profession. His delivery of world class safe and effective healthcare, and his transformational leadership of the professions, has brought different professional bodies together on a collective journey towards a healthier Scotland.

“During her media career, Sally Gray has travelled the world in search of the kookiest inventions, chased after wild alligators, flown a fighter plane, gone head-to-head with Hollywood heavyweights, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan, supported the development of children’s TV education programmes, and sung a duet with actor and comedian Sir Norman Wisdom. More recently, through her own media training company, she has focused on empowering others and nurturing talent, with a particular interest in helping young people build their confidence and find opportunities in the media. Her volunteering with young people was recognised with an MBE for her work as an ambassador for the Millennium Volunteers, and indeed, her wealth of experience in broadcasting and media training, coupled with her selfless support of others, is an inspiration to all of our new creative industries graduates.”

Sir Paul Grice concluded: “It was a real privilege to celebrate the achievements of outdoor education expert, Juliet Robertson, during her visit to our newly launched Outdoor Learning Hub. A key driver of Juliet’s work has been to enable all children to have positive and fun experiences outdoors, in nature, no matter where they live. Across Scotland, wherever there are people working in nature with children, they are likely to be using principles and methodologies laid down by Juliet. Indeed, her work has certainly influenced Ƶ’s drive to incorporate outdoor learning, not only in our teacher education courses, but across our wider course portfolio so more people can benefit from learning in nature.”

“We are truly honoured to have such exceptional individuals at graduation, and to recognise how their work aligns with the values of Queen Ƶt University in helping to create a better society and allowing people and communities to flourish. We are therefore delighted to celebrate each of their contributions with the award of honorary degree.”

Notes to Editor

For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Ƶt University, Edinburgh, E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk, copy to E: pressoffice@qmu.ac.uk; M: 07711 011239.

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