Plant hunter and Ammunition officer to receive Honorary Doctorates

24 January 2017

Prestigious figures, Tom Hart Dyke and Major Peter Norton GC, were awarded Honorary Doctorates at the University’s graduation ceremony on 27 January.

At each graduation ceremony, the University confers Honorary Fellowships and Doctorates to recognise outstanding service and honour contributions or achievements in the fields of education or public life.

English horticulturalist, author and plant hunter, Tom Hart Dyke, was kidnapped and held captive for nine months in Columbia whilst searching for rare Orchids.


From left to right: Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the Governing Body, Stephen Clark, Academic Registrar, Lorri Currie, Honorary Graduate, Tom Hart Dyke and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran

Tom, who is the son and heir of Guy and Sarah Hart Dyke at the family seat of Lullingstone Castle in Kent, was kidnapped and threatened with death in 2000 by suspected guerrillas in the Darian Gap between Panama and Columbia, whilst hunting for rare orchids. Whilst he was in captivity, Tom created a design for a garden containing plants collected on his travels in the shape of a world map. After his release, Tom realised his dreams and created the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, which is made up of over 8000 species.

Major Peter Norton GC, who grew up in Kent, is a retired Ammunition Technical Officer, with the British Army's Royal Logistic Corps and has been awarded the George Cross for his service in Iraq. Peter was born in Edmonton, London, but grew up in Margate, Kent, and joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as a Private in 1983. He reached the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 and was appointed a Conductor, the most senior non-commissioned appointment in the British Army, before being commissioned as a Captain in 2002 and promoted to Major in 2008.


From left to right: Dr Keith McLay, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the Governing Body, Stephen Clark, Honorary Graduate, Major Peter Norton GC and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran

Whilst serving in Iraq in 2005, Peter led his Combined Explosives Exploitation unit to assist a US patrol which succumbed to an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. On checking for the presence of further devices, a secondary victim-operated IED exploded. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm, and sustained serious injuries to his other leg and lower back. For his conduct, Peter was awarded the George Cross in 2006. He now runs his own consultancy business, is the Chairman of the Victorian Cross and George Cross Association and is a Trustee and Patron of ‘Help for Heroes’.

Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, said: “We are delighted to award Tom Hart Dyke and Major Peter Norton 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.”

Both individuals were awarded Honorary Doctorates in graduation ceremonies held on 27 January in Canterbury Cathedral.

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.

  • 96% 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.

*2014/15 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:26:00