Vice-Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Mr Roger Whorrod. A familiar face to many, Roger is one of our region’s most successful businessmen and has a long association with the University of Bath.
Roger left school at 15 with no formal qualifications. With the support of his parents, however, he moved to Cheltenham to study O and A-levels at North Gloucestershire Technical College. This was an important turning point in Roger’s life; not only did it lay the educational foundations of his future success, but he also met a young student nurse, Sue, who would become his lifelong friend, confidant, partner and venture capitalist.
Further study, sponsored by his employers, the Electricity Generating Board, saw him enrolled at the Bristol College of Advance Technology at Ashley Down. During his study, Bristol College became the University of Bath and in 1966 Roger became one of our very first graduates in Engineering.
Roger’s thirst for education continued with an MSc and then an MBA, during which time Sue was the main bread winner of the family. Following this Roger worked for a City-based company which was subsequently acquired by the American multinational GE. During this time Roger decided that he really wanted to be his own boss.
Roger led an attempted management buyout of the subsidiary he was working in; when this was rejected, he was invited to leave. This forced his hand to go it alone and together with a colleague, they channelled their redundancy money into a new joint venture – Electrical Equipment Holdings Ltd. which manufactured electrical equipment used in the construction of industrial and commercial buildings.
Now with two young children at home, once again it was Sue’s salary that kept the family afloat in the early years of the business. Over the next two decades the company grew, made acquisitions and ultimately achieved a £20 million turnover.
Electrical Equipment Holdings Ltd. was sold in 2000, providing a springboard for Roger’s continuing entrepreneurship, though now in joint partnership with his son, Robert. They have invested in three more companies, two of which have subsequently been sold on. All of the companies manufacture and supply a variety of electrical products for use in hazardous environments. Now partially retired, Roger enjoys his role acting as a non-executive director, advising and mentoring the engineering team of his new company.
In 2006, Roger and Sue decided to invest in a different type of enterprise: the nurturing and mentoring of young talent. To date they have supported a number of engineering undergraduates and early career researchers at the University of Bath, including one research fellow who is studying the impact of exercise on the health of those who have lost limbs and are often wheelchair users.
Roger not only generously supports students financially, but also with his time and commitment. He takes a keen personal interest in the students’ research projects and their career progressions. Having been the instigator of our pioneering Women in Engineering Student Society, he actively follows their activities and attends events religiously.
Roger was justly awarded an OBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List for services to philanthropy in higher education.
Roger has also made a notable contribution in shaping the strategic direction of the University, having served two successive terms on University Council since 2010, a position of which he is very proud.
In summary, Roger is the epitome of a self-made man who is now planting the seeds of success in the talented young researchers he supports. He would be the first to point out, however, that he owes his success to his partnership with his wife Sue.
Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Roger Whorrod OBE, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.
Professor Bernie Morley