When he was 17, doctors told Gary Mabbutt that he would never have a career in professional football due to being diagnosed with diabetes.
But the former Glenfrome and Elmlea Junior schools and Cotham Grammar School pupil went on to play for his home club Bristol Rovers before becoming Tottenham Hotspur’s second longest-serving player in history and winning 16 England caps.
Mabbutt has been a role model for many people with diabetes, and to mark his ongoing work was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bristol.
“I feel very honoured to be receiving an honorary degree, from my home city university,” said 57-year-old Mabbutt, who was born at Southmead Hospital.
“Bristol has always been part of my life, having grown up there until the age of 20, when I moved to London, to join Tottenham Hotspur.
He added: “My family still live in Bristol and all throughout my career, the first football results that I looked out for were Bristol Rovers and Bristol City. I keep in contact with Rovers and I am good friends with Stephen Lansdown and his family, and so keep in contact with Bristol Sport.
“Unfortunately, my father Ray, passed away a couple of years ago and I am sure that he would have been so proud to see me graduating from the University of Bristol with an honorary degree.”
Mabbutt is one of 16 people recognised by the University of Bristol with an honorary degree in this summer’s graduation ceremonies, celebrating their inspirational achievements both in the UK and internationally.
Among them is a record number of women who are all joining the 5,000 students who will graduate in 18 ceremonies over six days in the Wills Memorial Building.
Among the inspirational women is Bristol-based Lisa Johnson, manager of direct services at Women’s Aid, which she joined as a helpline volunteer in 1996.
Lisa has overseen the transformation of the helpline from a few phones, a ring binder and a whiteboard to an internationally renowned charity which uses technology and innovation to better support those who call.
Other pioneering women being awarded honorary degrees include:
- Dame Clare Marx, the first woman to be appointed president of the Royal College of Surgeons as well as the first women to become chair of the General Medical Council
- Dr Julie Maxton, executive Director of the Royal Society – the first woman in 350 years to hold the post
- Kalpna Woolf, founder of 91 Ways, uniting the 91 language communities of Bristol through food
- Sam Smith, the only female chief executive of a city broking firm
- Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, recently named the most influential woman academic in Africa
- Gillian Guy, a lawyer who is has been chief executive of Citizens Advice since 2010
- Emma Stibbon, an artist whose work focuses on environments undergoing dramatic change