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Jason Leonard OBE receives honorary doctorate from University of East London

UEL students

Rugby great Jason Leonard OBE ‘very proud’ to receive honorary doctorate from University of East London

World cup winner Jason Leonard OBE was acknowledged for his services to rugby union when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of East London (UEL) at its annual Sports Awards ceremony.

Jason, whose 114 appearances for the Red Rose make him England’s most capped player, was a member of the 2003 World Cup-winning squad and won four Grand Slams. 

In 2015, he became the first player from the professional era to be elected as President of the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Jason, who was born in Barking and began his rugby career at the local club, said his east London roots made him especially proud to be honoured by UEL.

“It’s a huge tribute and is something I’m very proud of,” he said. “It means a lot to be recognised by the area where I grew up.

“East London is always going to have a special place in my heart. I still have a strong affiliation with Barking Rugby Club and I still do a lot of work in the area with charities and schools. 

“For me, it’s always a pleasure to go back and give something to the area. I’ve played rugby all over the world but to go back and pass on my experiences is an honour.”

Jason was awarded an MBE in 2002 and an OBE two years later but admitted he was taken aback when he learned he was being made an honorary Doctor of Science by UEL.

“When I opened the letter, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “As it got closer and closer to the event, it began to sink in and you feel proud of being given the opportunity to receive this award.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the university. It’s on the rise and growing. I know for a fact that it’s gone up the sporting table recently. I get an impression of real pride from both the students and staff that they’re part of something special. They seem like a real family.”

Jason’s conferment was watched by hundreds of UEL’s most successful sporting students at the University’s Sports Awards ceremony at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on June 1. Among them was Olympic swimmer Aimee Willmott, who took home the Individual Achievement award.