Coventry Student Turned Hollywood Visual Effects Guru to Receive Honorary Award

An Oscar nominated visual effects supremo is to receive an honorary degree from Coventry University this week.

Christopher Townsend, who graduated from Coventry Polytechnic in 1988 with a degree in graphic design, will receive an honorary doctorate of arts in recognition of his outstanding work within film related visual effects.

Chris, whose award will be presented on Thursday 19th November at Coventry Cathedral, is one of a number of honorary nominees at this week’s graduation ceremonies at which around 7,000 students of Coventry University will also be presented with their degree certificates.

Having earned his spurs as a technical director and supervisor at Star Wars creator George Lucas’ famed Industrial Light and Magic studio – a company where he worked for 11 years – Christopher Townsend is now a freelance visual effects supervisor working on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters.

His résumé includes superhero flicks Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award at the 2014 Oscars) and Captain America: The First Avenger alongside swashbuckling fantasy Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of his award ceremony, Christopher Townsend said:

I’ve had an amazing career in the film industry and am fortunate enough to have been nominated for both an Oscar and a BAFTA but I can honestly say I’m just as thrilled to be recommended for this honorary degree by Coventry University.

This is where I set out on a journey that would eventually lead to Hollywood – in fact the degree course I studied here was one of the early adopters of computer graphics, which of course play a big part in visual effects – so I’m very happy to be returning to collect this award.

Amongst the other honorary awardees, who work in fields ranging from architecture to education and political science, are charity campaigners Simon Davies and David Burbidge OBE.

Now Executive Director of Teen Cancer America, Simon Davies was formerly the Chief Executive of Teenage Cancer Trust, where he worked tirelessly to promote change in specialist services for young people with cancer.

Local businessman David Burbidge is a Board Member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former Chair of Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.  A passionate advocate for the arts, he was also the founding chairman of the Coventry Cathedral Development Trust, for which he was awarded his OBE.

John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, offered his congratulations to all those receiving their awards. He said:

We’re delighted to be honouring these exceptional individuals at this week’s graduation ceremonies. Their commitment to their chosen disciplines and their contribution to society as a whole is worthy of praise and recognition.

I hope that our own graduating students, who we are also proud to pay tribute to for the successful completion of their studies, will take inspiration from our honorary graduates as they move on to the next stage of their lives.

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