Monday 20 December 2004
Public Orator, Professor
Ron McCaffer presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony
held on Monday 20 December 2004 at 10.30am.
and Gentlemen, and especially today, New Graduates of Loughborough
Our Honorary Graduand
today, John Christopher Gains, is one of the family, a Loughborough
engineer, having graduated from Loughborough with a BSc in Civil
Engineering in 1966.
His formative years
were at the King Henry the Eighth School in Coventry and these
Firstly, his appointment
as Head Boy saw the start of the development of his leadership
skills that were to take him to the very top of industry.
Secondly, he was inspired
by an uncle who worked for the world famous consulting engineers,
Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, to take up what is universally
accepted as the noblest of engineering disciplines – civil
engineering. The inspiration came from pictures of the construction
of the Kariba, Verveort and P K Leroux Dams, and this started
a fascination and lifelong interest in big projects with major
ground works, massive structures, and water.
Thirdly, he chose to
study at Loughborough, attracted, very much as today’s engineering
students are attracted, to Loughborough by the practical nature
of the course and the sure and certain knowledge that an engineering
degree from Loughborough would ensure a good well paid job.
As a member of the
Holt Hall of Residence his leadership qualities resurfaced as
he became Hall Chairman.
The engineering course
was tough and the young John Gains found it three years of hard
work. His application to his studies squeezed some of his intended
participation in sport. But his interest in sport remained and
he was a spectator at the Rugby World Cup Final in Australia.
It does help in making the arrangements, of course, if your company
has a branch there and is constructing the Darwin-Alice Springs
In his final year at
Loughborough the construction company Mowlems recruited him through
the milk round and seduced him to join them by inviting him to
visit a project, the Surrey Docks, to show off the company.
He was attracted to
the established company, the respect they showed him, the people
he met and above all the work he saw involving major work in the
ground and over water and all on a large scale.
He joined the company
and has remained to this day, displaying another of his attributes
His first job was setting
out, casting and installing 20,000 piles at Drax Power Station.
He says most graduates would have wilted under the task but for
a Loughborough engineer it was almost routine as Loughborough
engineers graduate not only with knowledge but with real practical
Being able to set out,
cast and install 20,000 piles with ease he was able to turn his
mind to other issues of programming, productivity, health and
safety and relationships with the workforce, giving him the platform
on which to advance.
Established as an achiever
he moved to the BP Angle Bay Ocean Terminal in Milford Haven,
more structures and water, and there he met and married his wife
Ann. Sadly he lost Ann in 1999.
Sent to Coode &
Partners for design experience, he returned to Mowlems for the
Gateshead Viaduct, the Scunthorpe Steel Works, experience in the
estimating department and back to manage his own site for a roll-on-roll-off
ferry terminal at Weymouth, one which he had priced in the estimating
department. If he didn’t make a profit on this project he
would not be able to blame the estimator for getting it at a low
On this project he
displayed his ability to deal with the client as well as manage
the site, as he persuaded the client to change methods and prices
in order to meet an ambitious completion date. This was the breakthrough
project that marked him out for high office.
This was followed as
Site Agent at Scunthorpe Steelworks, Drax 2 and doing estimating
work in the evening.
In 1984 he decided
to share his expertise and he co-authored a paper published by
the Institution of Civil Engineers “Pre-stressed pre-cast
piling at Drax Power Station and the use of pulverized fuel ash
replacement in concrete”.
By 1980 he had created
a regional role as Regional Manager for the East Midlands and
was also Director of Geotechnical Engineering responsible for
piling. In 1983 he was appointed Managing Director for Mowlem
Northern Division, and Deputy MD for Mowlem Civil Engineering
Co. In 1992 he was appointed Director for John Mowlem & Co
PLC, and became Group Chief Executive in 1995.
Along the way he developed
Mowlem’s interest in facilities management offering a complete
service to clients and involved the company heavily in developing
Public Private Partnerships as part of the Government’s
Private Finance Initiative. He became the media’s favourite
spokesman for PFI. The Financial Times dubbed him “the PFI’s
chief apologist” - a title he didn’t reject.
John Gains is clearly
a company man; the company’s values are his values:
Fair treatment for customers and suppliers
• Fulfilling employees’ potential
• Teamwork and personal accountability
• Continuing improvement of skills and products
• Setting the standards for the industry
all summarise his
values and set him out as a modern manager committed to his team
and one who has made a major contribution to the competitiveness
of today’s construction industry.
He is also proud that
Mowlems is still a construction company when many competitors
have moved away from mainstream construction.
He was President of
the Construction Confederation from 2000-2003, representing the
whole of industry to government and the wider community, and sat
on the CBI’s National Council. He has also been a member
of the ‘CBI’s President’s Committee’;
‘The Urban Sounding Board’, a Government “think
tank” chaired by Lord Falconer; ‘The Strategic Construction
Forum’ and the ‘Major Contractors’ Group’.
He chairs the Innovation
Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre here at Loughborough,
the largest industry-university research effort funded by the
Engineering & Physical Science Research Council. He is also
a member of our Estates Management Committee and its putative
His other interests
include occasional golf, sailing, an interest in exploring Africa
and a 1963 E-type Jaguar. This last interest is no more than one
Loughborough Engineer recognising the excellence of another as
the designer of the E-type was Malcolm Sayer was a 1938 graduate
With us today are his
son Paul and his wife, his daughter Jennifer and her fiancée,
and a friend, Fionuala. We welcome them all to the University
today to witness our honouring of John Gains.
The Queen knighted
him in 2003, and now we at Loughborough wish to acknowledge his
lifetime’s contribution to construction and the success
of one of our own.
Chancellor, I present
to you and to the University, Sir John Christopher Gains, Bachelor
of Science, Chartered Engineer, Fellow the Institution of Civil
Engineers, for the degree of Doctor of Technology, Honoris Causa,
and I am delighted to do so.