8 July 2004
Public Orator, Professor
Ron McCaffer presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony
held on Thursday 8 July 2004 at 10.30am
of Charnwood, Ladies and Gentlemen and especially today New Graduates
of Loughborough University.
The University awards
Honorary Degrees for high achievement in a profession, or for
service to the country and the community. Our Honorary Graduand
today would merit the award of an honorary degree for any one
of these reasons alone. Harry Thomason is a distinguished Human
Biologist and Physiologist, specialising in human performance
under extreme conditions such as deep sea diving or athletics.
This platform of expertise
created the opportunity for Harry to make one of the most significant
impacts on modern sport. Working on behalf of the Institute of
Sports Medicine he introduced drugs testing to the 1965 Tour of
Britain Cycle Race. Widely believed to be the first widespread
drug testing at a major sporting event. This resulted in one European
team being banned from the competition and Harry being an unwelcome
visitor to that country for many years until the death of the
In terms of service
to others Harry has been active for the country and the community.
For many years he was Treasurer of the British Association of
Sports Medicine and is now their Vice-President. He was a Council
Member of the Parliamentary University Group, a Member of the
DTI/DfEE’s Education and Training Export Committee, a Member
of the Government’s Committee for Middle East Trade, Chairman
of the Governors of Leicester Grammar School, and member of the
British Olympic Medical Committee.
but it is not for these reasons that the University has chosen
to honour Harry. This is one of those rare occasions that the
University wishes to publicly recognise the service to the University
of one of its own. Harry Thomason was a member of staff for 26
years and is very much one of the family. For what he contributed
to the University we, today, say a very public thank you.
When the University
wanted to create a new Department of Physical Education and Sports
Science leading in research as well as teaching, it was to Harry
Thomason that the University turned. The then Vice-Chancellor,
Sir Clifford Butler, blatantly poached him from Salford University
and during the 10 years of Harry’s leadership the new department
grew in size and capability. It has become, today, the best in
Britain, all built on the foundations that Harry laid down.
But Harry was too valuable
to the University to let him lead a single Department so he was
prevailed upon to hold a succession of senior posts in the University
over the reign of no less than 4 Vice-Chancellors: he was a Pro-Vice-Chancellor
(1985-1987) and Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor, now called Deputy
Vice-Chancellor, (1987-1991). The post of Pro-Vice-Chancellor
for External Relations was especially created for Harry by the
then Vice Chancellor Sir David Davies. Some years later Sir David
Davies commented that he created the post for Harry because the
University needed Harry’s social skills to interface with
industry and government.
It was in this, his
last job for the University which he held from 1989 to 2003, a
total of 14 years, that Harry really shone. It was as if this
was the reason that he had come to Loughborough, and it was in
this role that he made his lasting impact on the University.
The descriptions Harry
has attracted as he discharged his duties include the University’s
best “roving ambassador” and “the acceptable
face of the University”. He has a remarkable talent for
getting alongside people, making them feel comfortable and persuading
them to do business with the University. Responsible for forging
strong relationships with Governments and industry, he worked
with the Governments of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia,
Jamaica, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as the UK.
This portfolio of countries gave rise to the Vice-Chancellor’s
most frequently asked question ‘Where is Harry?’
Most academic staff
at Loughborough have links with industry - it is our way of doing
business - but Harry took this dimension of our activity to new
levels. Through him the University built links at Board level
in companies and out of this have grown full partnerships which
extend well beyond the normal research project or short course.
With Ford and BAE Systems,
the University has deep, multi-facetted links ranging from sponsored
Professorships, large research programmes, comprehensive suites
of education and training including short courses, undergraduate
programmes , postgraduate programmes and PhDs, and links with
schools here and abroad. These sorts of partnership are now characteristic
of Loughborough but are uncommon in other universities. The Henry
Ford College and the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre (SEIC)
are conspicuous evidence of these partnerships.
In forging these partnerships
Harry also taught the University staff the value of working together
because to deliver the outputs that the companies were seeking
took University wide effort. He taught us in working with industry
that the three most important actions were to listen, to listen
and to listen, and by doing so we would understand industry, its
issues and the research we could deliver that would solve their
problems. He knew that our competitors were too arrogant or insecure
for this approach and that by listening we would develop the competitive
would not have happened if it had not been for Harry. Why?
Harry is someone that
is trusted by the companies, who feel they can do business with
him and the University. Harry is someone who is trusted by his
academic colleagues who were and are prepared to follow him into
new exciting relationships with industry.
Harry, who as a Lancashire schoolboy started by delivering eggs
from the back of a lorry to local housewives is now retired, although
he still keeps his involvement with industry and Government but
now manages to spend a little more time on the golf course and
sailing his boat on Lake Windermere.
The greatest joy in
his life, nowadays as it always has been, is his family and particularly
his grandchildren. With him today is his wife Marie and his son,
Tim, and daughter-in-law Teresa. To all of them I extend the University’s
Chancellor, I present,
Professor Harry Thomason, MSc, PhD,, Fellow of the Royal Society
of Medicine, for the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa
and it gives me great personal pleasure to do so.