The University of Leeds Centenary 1904 - 2004
Presentation addresses
Press release
Centenary celebration ceremony

Presentation addresses

Sir Ken Morrison, by Victor Watson


Sir Ken Morrison’s abiding talent is to know what people want. It is a talent, which he has cultivated through observation and experience over a lifetime in the retail trade. But there is much more than that to the building of a great business.

While still at Bradford Grammar School, Ken worked in the family provisions business in the school holidays. We would call it work experience these days. What we now call gap years, Ken spent in the Royal Air Force as a National Serviceman, no doubt eager all the time to start real work which he did on demobilisation in 1952. His father was seriously ill so Ken was plunged into the management of the business and had to learn very quickly.

By 1956 he was the Chairman and Managing Director of a small group of shops, the embryo of what was to become a formidable retail presence, a household name throughout the UK and the largest public company headquartered in Yorkshire.

Morrison’s first supermarket was opened in 1961 and the company went public in 1967. The share offer was oversubscribed 174 times. The company then set about a rapid expansion programme including new stores, distribution services, food processing and the complex business of handling fresh foods. In 1999 Morrisons celebrated its centenary and opened its 100th store.

A company the size of Morrisons with forecast sales of £14 billion per annum needs a large number of well-qualified and dedicated people. The fact that Ken has succeeded in building a united and co-ordinated team is perhaps his greatest achievement.

It is small wonder that Ken Morrison is the longest serving chairman of a top 100 public company in the UK. It is no surprise that he has been knighted. Except perhaps to Ken himself. He can still be seen on the shop floor in the familiar short-sleeved shirt, dressed for action, ready for comments from customers, with the familiar wry smile at some of the pithy remarks one expects in Yorkshire.

Chancellor, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Kenneth Duncan Morrison.

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University of Leeds Centenary 1904 - 2004 Centenary logo Jack Charlton Tony Harrison Sir Ian McKellen Sir Kenneth Morrison Baroness Usha Prashar Professor Dame Julia Higgins