The Middlesbrough-born actress received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University’s Chancellor, Lord Sawyer of Darlington, in a special ceremony at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
Thelma is fondly remembered for her role as Coronation Street’s Mavis Riley, who she played for nearly 2,000 episodes over 26 years. More recently she appeared in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies, in a role specially written for her.
She has also appeared in Fat Friends, The Royal, Marple and Midsommer Murders. Last year she played the villainous Lady Thaw in Doctor Who and in 2005 she took a role in her first film Mrs Henderson Presents, which led her to be nominated Most Promising Newcomer in the British Independent Film Awards.
Also receiving honorary degrees were Alan Hinkes OBE, the first Briton to climb all 14 of the world's highest mountains, Margaret Fay OBE, chairwoman of regional development agency One NorthEast, Professor Eric Thomas, influential Vice-Chancellor and Steve Penrose, senior vice-president of ADP.
Alan, who was born in Northallerton, achieved fame as the first Briton to successfully climb all 14 of the world’s highest mountains. He received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Professional Studies.
Margaret, a former member of the University’s Board of Governors, is Chairman of regional development agency One NortEast. Before joining One NorthEast she had a 22-year career with Tyne Tees Television, which included six years as Managing Director. She was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.
Hartlepool-born Eric, who is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, has become one of the country’s best known and most-influential Vice-Chancellors. He was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.
United States-based Steve, who graduated in computer science from the University’s predecessor Teesside Polytechnic in the 1970s, went on to achieve the position of Senior Vice-President in ADP. The company has 47,000 staff and is one of the largest providers of integrated computing and business outsourcing companies in the world. He received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration.