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David Oyelowo awarded honorary doctorate by London uni

HONORARY DOCTORATE: David Oyelowo was given the award by London South Bank University, the same institution his father attended 40 years ago (Image: Jean Bravo/London South Bank University)

DAVID OYELOWO has been awarded an honorary doctorate from London South Bank University (LSBU).

The Hollywood actor received the prestigious award yesterday (October 15) during the graduation ceremony for the university’s school of arts and creative industries and school of applied sciences.

Oyelowo spoke to The Voice just before the ceremony about what the occasion meant to him.

He said: “It’s a source of immense pride for me partly because my dad came to this university 40 years ago, he did a BA Honours in business studies and he always [laughs] wanted me to do a degree and because I wanted to be an actor, I never actually got a degree. So finally my dad gets to see me in a cap and gown, not only that but at the university that he went to, so it’s a wonderful honour.”

Oyelowo, who starred as Martin Luther King in Ava Duvernay's critically acclaimed 2014 film Selma, was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor School of Arts and Creative Industries.

Although he did not attend university himself, he has a special connection to LSBU as his former teacher Gill Foster now teaches at the institution.

It was Foster who encouraged Oyelowo to believe in his acting abilities and apply for a place at LAMDA, which in the end he won a scholarship to attend.

The 42-year-old who has just finished filming Come Away with Angelina Jolie, and will appear on TV screens in a BBC adaptation of Les Miserables, made special mention of Foster during his acceptance speech. He credited her to not only helping kickstart his career but also playing a part in helping him find his wife of 20 years, Jessica, who he met at the National Youth Music Theatre, which Foster suggested he consider joining.

Oyelowo said: “I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me.”

During his speech to graduands, the actor and producer encouraged them to do the hard thing.

“I wanted to challenge you upon your graduation to ‘do the hard thing’ and trust that the rest will follow.

“What is ‘the hard thing’? Well, in my opinion the hard thing is that which scares you, the thing that excites you, the thing they say is impossible, the thing that you think may be improbable. I would say to you it is better to fail at the hard thing, than it is to succeed at the mediocre thing, the safe thing,” he said.

Oyelowo urged those graduating not to let fear of failure deter them from doing the “hard thing” but to “feel the fear and strive for hard earned success”.

The A United Kingdom actor said his own father feared that by doing the “hard thing” his son would fail.

“Here I am at his old university in a cap and gown getting an honorary degree because I did the hard thing,” Oyelowo said.

As well as imparting words of wisdom to the audience, Oyelowo also had the Royal Festival Hall roaring with laughter with his impression of his Nigerian father who had wanted him to study law, and was extremely proud of his own degree from LSBU.

LSBU is one of London’s oldest and largest universities. It has been named the University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019.

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