Presentation address by Mr Roger Gair

Vice-Chancellor,

In this ceremony, we are honouring a man who exemplifies one of the University’s key values:  public service.

John Stoddart-Scott graduated from Leeds with a degree in textile management, and since then has been a successful businessman and farmer.  (Incidentally, though they may not realise it, his farm is known to millions through Emmerdale). 

John has had a long – fifty-year – connection with the Clothworkers, the livery company whose association with the University goes back to the time when it helped establish the Yorkshire College (whose initials are studded around this hall).  John was Master of the Clothworkers in 2011-12;  he has been deeply involved with the Company’s many charitable activities, as a Trustee and later Chairman of the Clothworkers’ Foundation;  and he has been responsible for directing the Clothworkers’ extensive programme of support for textile education, research and heritage.

We in the University have been hugely fortunate to experience John’s qualities at first hand.  He retires this month after thirty-eight years as the Clothworkers’ representative on the University Council.  This is a truly remarkable span of office.  It is 112 years since the University was founded, and John has been a member of its governing body for a third of that time, serving with six vice-chancellors (two of whom, indeed, he helped to select). 

Throughout, John has been at the heart of the University’s governance:  his wisdom and acumen have shaped countless important decisions;  informed the development of policy and strategy;  and helped to ensure effective stewardship of the institution and its assets.  As chair of the Investments Committee, John steered through the adoption of our socially responsible investment policy and the then controversial decision not to invest in tobacco companies;  he was a trustee of the University’s in-house pension scheme for two decades;  and he is the long-standing chair of the University’s two main subsidiary companies, which run a hotel and conference centre and five farms.

Though it is probably not in his temperament to rock boats, John has never shirked his responsibility to test, to challenge and to hold the executive to account.  He has always been meticulous in his preparation and attendance;  his judgements have always been firmly grounded in evidence, experience and expertise;  and, whilst he is invariably courteous, he has always asked the difficult, shrewd, and penetrating questions.  In doing so, he has never sought the limelight for himself;  but rather has been motivated simply by a desire to do his duty in the service of others – which he has done with quiet determination, with integrity and professionalism, and with decency.

Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, John David Malcolm Stoddart-Scott.