Maggie Philbin: it’s an honour!

Posted on 18/09/2016 by IED

When IED president, TV presenter and technology entrepreneur Maggie Philbin travelled to Huddersfield recently to receive an honorary doctorate from its university, it meant a return journey to one of the most exciting moments in her life.

She was joined at the ceremony by her sister Nickie, a Huddersfield student towards the end of the 1970s, taking a BA degree in humanities and drama that led to a career in show business and music journalism, plus management and celebrity photography. Maggie herself was a student in Manchester at the time and, after answering an unusual advertisement in The Stage, had just landed a presenting job with popular Saturday morning TV show Swap Shop.

On receiving her Honorary Doctorate for services to science broadcasting and technology education, she told the audience at the university’s St Paul’s Hall how she had travelled to Huddersfield to tell her sister about her big break. “It was so exciting to be on that train, knowing I was coming to give her some amazing news. Swap Shop really did turn out to be the chance of a lifetime,” said Maggie, who later went on to specialise in presenting science and technology programmes –notably Tomorrow’s World. This, in turn, would lead her into becoming a major figure in many charities and a promoter of technology among young people.

Dr Rupert Ward, head of informatics at the university, told how Maggie became co-founder and CEO of the award-winning TeenTech, which inspires young people to engage with science and technology. “TeenTech’s annual awards provide an opportunity for the groups of young people to identify innovative solutions which can then be potentially tested and developed commercially,” said Ward. He went on to tell how Maggie was asked to lead the UK Digital Skills Task Force, which reported to government on the UK’s digital skills requirements.

“Looking back over a media career of more than 30 years in radio, television, print and online, Maggie has shown an amazing adaptability to a wide variety of roles, and a continued passion and commitment that very few can match,” he added, concluding that “we would be in a far worse position, particularly in terms of the number of girls engaging with science and technology, without the truly remarkable role model we have here with us today”.

Maggie spoke about her broadcasting career – including some setbacks – and she used her experience to bestow some valuable advice on new graduates. “…when you get an opportunity, always push to one side that idea that this isn’t for me. You really do have the world in front of you and what’s really exciting is you have no idea what you will go on to do, so seize every opportunity.”


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