David Pond

Former Chief Executive of Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby

David Pond was awarded an Honorary Degree in Summer 2022. Here you can read his degree oration.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor,

Drive and determination are traits we speak of often here at Loughborough and the individual I’m presenting to you today has enjoyed a career built on these strengths.

David Pond joined Loughborough in 1974, studying for a degree in Physical Education and English. He enjoyed playing rugby for the Freshers’ team, during a period when the University produced some of its greatest talents in the sport including international players such as Clive Woodward, Nigel Gillingham, and Kevin Williams.

After graduating, David began working at Gresham’s School in Norfolk, as Head of Rugby and teaching English.

In 1980 he looked to the Royal Navy for new a challenge, entering the Britannia Royal Naval College on a three-year short service commission. Three years turned into a 28-year career, with David re-training as a specialist in oceanography and meteorology. His early operational career was in support of anti-submarine warfare operations and his work took him across the world.

In the years that followed, David was assigned responsibility across several areas including in 2001 when he was appointed Head of Personnel at NATO Headquarters in Belgium, where he was responsible for crisis operations including NATO activities in Bosnia and Kosovo. 

His hard work was rewarded as he rose through the ranks from Executive Officer to Captain and then Commodore in 2003.

Rugby was a prominent feature of his naval life from early on. He played for and captained several ship teams and in 2000 became Chairman of Royal Navy Rugby.

David left the navy in 2006, setting up a consultancy company, before following his passion for rugby by becoming the Chief Executive of Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby in 2009. His mission was to transform the sport from a voluntary-led and delivered recreational activity, to a professional national governing body ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

With less than three years to achieve this, David quickly transformed the organisation into a charitable company, developing partnerships with Rugby Football Union, several premiership rugby clubs, and organisations such as UK Sport, Sport England, and Help for Heroes.

The most prominent partnership set up between the organisation and a university, was here at Loughborough, when the national governing body began working with the University’s Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport. The facility has played a key role in the sport from the outset by using research to enhance the performance and well-being of the players. David and the team at Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby have welcomed many Loughborough postgraduate and doctoral students into the squad training environments, where their research has been embedded and supported.

The crowning glory came in August 2021, when the ParalympicsGB team won Gold in Tokyo, the first-ever wheelchair rugby Paralympic medal achieved by any European team, and the first Gold medal for Great Britain in a team sport in the history of the paralympic games.

David stepped down from his position as Chief Executive Officer in September 2021 and described the team’s success in Tokyo as the best leaving present he could have ever wished for.

David’s inspirational tale doesn’t end there either. He is currently working as Director of Ukraine First, a group of NGOs working with the Ukraine resistance movement to source and deliver medical, humanitarian and protective aid.

David travelled to Poland and then Ukraine in early March to help those crossing the border and deliver critical supplies to innocent civilians caught up in the conflict.

Whilst there, David and his associates raised over £65,000 that was used to purchase four ambulances; life-saving medical equipment medicines and supplies; and multiple field kitchens capable of providing over 500 hot meals at a time.

Now back in the UK, David continues to support the cause through fundraising and using his networks to source and provide relief.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you and the whole University, David Pond, for the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa.