Degree Speeches

Summer 2000


John Beckwith, CBE

Public Orator, Professor Stuart Biddle, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on Monday 17 July 2000 at 3.00pm

Chancellor, Lord Lieutentant, Vice-Chancellor, Mayor and Mayoress of Charnwood, Graduants, Ladies and Gentlemen

Successful people in business are often admired, not just for their business successes per se - in other words we are sometimes jealous of their salary! -, but often for their motivation and persistence in reaching their goals. Indeed, today's honorary graduate was described by more than one colleague of his I spoke to as a 'mover and a shaker!' But today we honour more than a highly successful businessman in Mr Beckwith. For not only has he created, nurtured, and developed a highly successful and diverse business empire, but he has made a huge contribution to the voluntary sector, including charities and sport, as well as Loughborough University itself. In short, he is a man who has made a real difference in not one, but many, spheres of life.

John Lionel Beckwith was educated at Harrow School and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen's. In 1971 he established, with his brother Peter, the property company London & Edinburgh Trust, and was Chairman until 1993. During that time, London & Edinburgh Trust became one of the top ten property companies in the UK and a leading international company, with offices worldwide. From 1986 until 1991, Mr Beckwith was Founding Chairman of Rutland Trust PLC, the diversified corporate finance, venture capital and insurance broking group.

Since leaving London & Edinburgh Trust, Mr Beckwith has developed the private investment company Pacific Investments PLC of which he is Chairman. This focuses on four core areas:

From 1993 until its successful sale in 1997 to First Leisure PLC, Mr Beckwith was Chairman of Riverside PLC, which owned the Riverside Racquets and Espree health, tennis and fitness chain, which he had developed during his involvement with London & Edinburgh Trust. Recent activities also include the founding, development and sale of leisure group Riverside, property group Portfolio Holdings, Sport and Outdoor Media and Barbican Healthcare, alongside the founding and flotation of fund managers Liontrust and new media group Convergence.

These achievements alone, I am sure, will have satisfied you - graduates and friends of graduates from business and economics - that here is a man making a huge contribution to society and thereby being worthy of this honorary degree. However, it does not stop there! Mr Beckwith has supported a wide range of voluntary sector organisations and charities for many years. He is Vice-President of the Royal National Institute for the Blind and was Chairman of their Looking Glass Appeal that raised over £8m. He is a member of the Development Board of the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund and Patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, and has funded a specialist cancer unit at Hammersmith Hospital. Mr Beckwith's contributions to charitable causes were recognised in 1995 with the award of CBE.

Finally, Mr Beckwith has a keen and active involvement in sport, and this is not just through having run four marathons or being a member of the MCC, Queen's Club, the Berkshire Royal Golf Club, or Rosslyn Park Rugby Club! Indeed, his involvement is more than this and it seems wholly appropriate for Mr Beckwith to be receiving his honorary degree at Britain's top sporting university. In 1999, he was awarded the Central Council for Physical Recreation's Arthur Bell Trophy for Services to Community Sport.

Fuelled by witnessing an incident of extreme anti-social behaviour some years ago, Mr Beckwith became convinced that sport could be an important vehicle for enhancing people's lives and for positive social change. In particular, he believed that children and young people should be given every opportunity to be channelled away from negative activities into positive ones, such as sport. As a psychologist myself, I have studied the potential psychological and social benefits of sport, and I know that simply playing is not enough. The important ingredient is people - informed and enthusiastic leaders, whether parents, teachers, coaches, or other helpers. In helping create and develop the Youth Sport Trust, Mr Beckwith has enabled this process of sports development for the wider social good to be exploited. Established in 1994, the Youth Sport Trust is a national sports charity with the aim of improving sporting provision for all children in the UK and for identifying and nurturing young people with talent in sport. Mr Beckwith is currently the Chair of the Trust and has made a personal commitment of over £1m, including establishing the Institute of Youth Sport and the Beckwith Professorship of Youth Sport here at Loughborough University.

The Youth Sport Trust, with Mr Beckwith's contribution of time, money and networking, has secured over £20m for sports development for young people, including funding from corporate sponsorship, the National Lottery, and grant-making trusts and foundations. At the end of 1999, the Youth Sport Trust had reached 2.5 million young people, had distributed over 35,000 bags of sports equipment to schools and organisations, and trained over 150,000 teachers and other sports leaders. Now that's what I call 'making a difference!'

For his work in business, charities, and the voluntary sector, and for his wider contribution to society, therefore, Mr Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, JOHN LIONEL BECKWITH, CBE for the degree of DOCTOR OF LETTERS honoris causa.

Home Publicity Office Degrees 2000