IT wasn't quite up there with the Oscars but award-winning actress Olivia de Havilland made a star appearance at the annual University of Hertfordshire graduation ceremony.

The double Oscar-winning star, famous for her role in Gone With the Wind - the most successful movie of all time - was made a Doctor of Letters on Friday for her contribution to the art of film.

The only surviving member of the cast of Gone With the Wind, Miss de Havilland travelled from her Paris home for the ceremony at St Albans Abbey. She was joined by Miss Anne de Havilland, the daughter of her cousin, jet aircraft pioneer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who gave his name to the former Hertfordshire-based company.

The actress was one of ten people to receive honorary degrees in a list that included Dr Michael Elves, director of GlaxoWellcome's Office of Scientific and Educational Affairs, who lives near St Albans, author Pat Barker, former Spurs captain and England player Gary Mabbutt, and retired university chaplain the Rev Bill Taylor.

But the week-long award ceremonies also saw 3,000 students receiving their degrees.

Among them were 15 graduates from the St Albans district who received first class honours degrees.

Mr James Oliver, 24, of Sherwood Avenue, was awarded a first in computing. A former pupil of Sandringham School, he said: "Having been born and bred in St Albans it is an honour to receive my degree at the abbey."

At least five of the graduates who achieved firsts were mothers who juggled studying with jobs and bringing up their children.

Ms Nicola Poulain, 33, of Bowes-Lyon Mews, St Albans, who was awarded a first in community specialist practitioner nursing, said: "Studying with family commitments - two boys - and working full-time with study leave has been a difficult task, although a wonderful experience. The sacrifices made during that time are very worthwhile in the long term."

And mother-of-two Claire Tilcock, 38, of Crossway, Harpenden, added: "My time at university was a challenge and hard work but worth it in the end." She received a first in social sciences.

Former British Telecom manager Mr Peter Salisbury, 51, of Old Orchard, Park Street, started studying after taking early retirement. He gained a first in historical studies with environmental studies.

After the ceremony, he said: "I was looking for a complete break from the treadmill, but I also wanted to keep my mind alive. My degree course fitted the bill perfectly and I am now considering doing an MA."

Also completing her studies later in life was 53-year-old Ms Sheila Torrens, of Derwent Road, St Albans, who gained a first in linguistics and Spanish. The mother-of-three said: "I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to gain a degree at this stage of my life."

Others who received firsts were Ms Esther Papineau, of Roundwood Lane, Harpenden, literature with psychology; Mr Neil Arnott, of Chesterton Avenue, Harpenden, computer science; Ms Caroline Mileham, of Dalkeith Road, Harpenden, art and design; Ms Beth Walker, of Mackerye End, education; Ms Melanie Pitches, of Southdown Road, Harpenden, physiotherapy; Mr Richard Cawte, of Camp Road, St Albans, software systems for arts and media; Ms Sybil Brindley, of Verulam Road, St Albans, fine art; Ms Pennie Lordan, Boleyn Drive, St Albans, education; Mr Ben Castelow, of Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, computer science; Mr Norbert Walter, of Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, computer science.

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