Former Chief Exec of Oxleas NHS Trust receives Honorary Doctorate

20 September 2016

Canterbury Christ Church University is thrilled to announce that Stephen Firn OBE, the longest serving CEO of an NHS Trust in the UK, is among this year’s prestigious figures who have received Honorary Doctorates at the University’s September graduation ceremonies.


Stephen Firn OBE at graduation ceremony

Each year, the University confers Honorary Fellowships and Doctorates to recognise outstanding service and honour contributions or achievements in the fields of education or public life. As well as Stephen Firn OBE, Harry Christophers CBE and Professor Tom Purvis have also received Honorary Doctorates at Canterbury Cathedral on 13 and 14 September. 

Stephen Firn OBE has very recently retired as the Chief Executive of Oxleas NHS Trust, the first Mental Health Trust to be formed in the UK, which he held since 2002. Having first qualified as a nurse in 1985, Stephen has worked in a range of clinical, teaching, research and managerial positions and received an OBE for services to health, particularly mental health, in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

The University also awarded an Honorary Doctorate to Professor Tom Purves, former CEO at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars from 2008 to 2010 following from his role as the Chairman and CEO of BMW for North America from 1999 to 2008.


From left to right: Stephen Clark, Pro-Chancellor, Professor Tom Purves, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor and Professor Heather McLaughlin, Director of the Business School.

Tom's notable innovations included the early use of sales promotions through event marketing and wholesales sales incentives in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the mid to late 1970s. He also introduced live business TV by satellite at BMW, and was the first person in the automotive industry to use internet communications on a substantially creative scale. In 2011 he became Visiting Professor of Management Practice at Christ Church and is also a member of the University’s Business School Advisory Board.

The final Honorary Doctorate went to English Conductor, Harry Christophers CBE, for his contribution to the music industry. Born in Goudhurst, Kent, Harry began his music career as a child when he was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral whilst attending the King’s School in Canterbury.


From left to right: Stephen Clark, Pro-Chancellor, Harry Christophers CBE and Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor.

Harry founded the vocal ensemble The Sixteen in 1979, which he directed throughout Europe, America and the Far East. In 2000, he began the Choral Pilgrimage, a national tour of English cathedrals from York to Canterbury, in music from the pre-Reformation era as The Sixteen's contribution to the millennium celebrations. He was appointed his CBE in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to music.

Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, said: “We are delighted to award Stephen Firn, Tom Purvis and Harry Christophers with Honorary Doctorates this year. They are deserving of recognition for their outstanding services and contributions and are an inspiration for our students and their future careers.”

The graduation ceremonies were held in Canterbury Cathedral on the 13 and 14 September 2016.

Notes to Editor

The University awards Honorary Fellowships and Doctorates to celebrate extraordinary achievement. Honorary Fellows are awarded to individuals who have a substantial connection with the University, Kent or whose work is strongly associated with our University’s academic disciplines. Honorary Doctorates are recommended to those who have made an outstanding national or international contribution to public life.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:58:00