Degree Speeches
Summer 2003

Cyril Woodruff

Public Orator, Mr Mike Pearson, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Monday 14 July at 3.00pm.



Chancellor, guests and members of the university.

Degrees from Loughborough don’t come easily, as most of you in the room today can testify. They’re the result of hard work and consistent application over a long period.

And Loughborough doesn’t hand out honorary degrees easily either. It reserves them for men and women of distinction, perhaps in an academic discipline, in the local or wider community or, just occasionally, for someone who has given outstanding service to the University itself. Today is one of those fairly rare occasions when we recognise one of our own.

In Cyril Woodruff we honour a long-standing member of our council – our governing body. Corporate governance is a hot topic these days. Despite a plethora of well-written codes of practice, the behaviour of some of our biggest and grandest institutions sometimes falls well below what we expect. But governing anything isn’t easy and in a complex organisation such as ours, being a governor is quite a challenge – experience as a tightrope walker is useful. No doubt on the way home after a particularly frustrating meeting, he has wondered whether the university is capable of being governed at all. But the university is dependent on the commitment and skill of people like cyril to make sure that we maintain high standards, have a clear vision of what we are about and organise ourselves effectively and efficiently.

Cyril is governance is action – substantial action. He chairs two of our company boards, Burleigh Court and Cascaid Limited. These are not academic exercises; they are serious and successful businesses operating against stiff commercial competition. The livelihoods of over a hundred people depend on their successful operation. He also sits on another university company board and two major university committees - estates management and human resources. All this is at the expense of spending his well-earned retirement with his wife and family, whose tolerance and support we are pleased to recognise. He has another interest but I was sorry to hear that he is handicapped – i hope it is not too painful.

Cyril’s qualification for being a governor is the better part of a lifetime’s work in the gas industry, especially in what is now called human resource management. He was born in Abingdon and went to Abingdon School; he saw national service in the ordnance corps and first engaged in personnel work at the atomic energy authority at Harwell. Thanks to encouragement from his employers, he sailed into Nottingham University to read economics as a late entrant. After graduating he joined the WEA as a tutor/organiser, a calling he much enjoyed. But he returned to personnel work on joining the East Midlands gas board in 1965, spending 30 years in it and finishing as personnel director. We are pleased to see two of his former chairmen here today to join in our celebrations. It was during this time that he came across the formidable character of our former chancellor, Sir Denis Rooke.

Today is our opportunity to thank Cyril for all he has contributed to the University. Not only for his skills, but for his personality - being positive and constructive, being calm when things warm up a bit, being tolerant of our strange ways and for sticking at the job despite its many frustrations.

Therefore Chancellor, I present to you and the University, Cyril Woodruff for the award of the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.


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H.D.McCullam@lboro.ac.uk, July 2003

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