Leading figures in theology, business and surveying in Cheshire will be recognised with honorary degrees from the University of Chester today (Friday, November 3).
Richard Thomas will receive a Master of Business Administration for his outstanding contribution to the city of Chester as chief executive of the Chester Race Company Ltd.
Richard Thomas took up the helm at the racecourse in August 2000. Richard joined the Royal Marines straight from school and after five years as a military man, began his career in the racing industry, having worked at four separate racecourses over his career to date. After short stints at Aintree and Huntingdon Racecourses, he became managing director of Haydock Racecourse where he improved profitability from £200,000 to £1.2M in just seven years.
He joined Chester Racecourse as chief executive in 2000 and quickly acquired Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse as a sister jumps course, broadening the racing offering under the company umbrella. In 2003 Richard masterminded the development and project management of a new hotel on the racecourse footprint, under the Holiday Inn Express franchise. To further develop the racing operation, in 2006 Richard relocated the stables from the Linenhall site and built a whole new facility behind the railway arches. In 2008, under his management, the Racecourse opened its first venture in the mainstream leisure market, Restaurant 1539 and built the Pavilion Suite, a multi-functioning conferencing and events space and that still remains Chester’s largest.
More leisure venues were added to the portfolio in 2012, with the acquisition of a bar building in the city centre (off Bridge Street), which is now known as Commonhall Street Social. The White Horse pub was completed in April 2013 and later extended by a conservatory in November to accommodate demand. Most recently, Chester Racecourse has acquired the popular wine bar Ginger located near the Town Hall to add to the Company’s Restaurant Group.
Chester Bet, the Race Company’s on-course betting operation was launched in 2012 following the sale of the tote. This move empowered racecourses to take control of their own betting operations and in a move to ensure betting revenue would remain within the Race Company and be reinvested back into the industry.
Richard said: “I am delighted to accept this award from The University of Chester. The city of Chester is rightly proud to have the University at its heart and its continued growth and success is vital to the city. I am honoured to have this connection to the University through this award.”
Bishop Libby Lane will receive a Doctor of Divinity, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the ministry in this country, in particular recognition of her role as Dean of Women in Ministry and Bishop of Stockport.
The Rt Revd Libby Lane became the Church of England’s first woman bishop in January 2015. She serves as the Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester.
Libby said: “As a bishop in the Diocese of Chester, I am honoured and grateful to accept this degree from the University of Chester. This occasion reinforces our close and mutual relationship. I recognise that the honour marks the place I hold as the Church of England’s first woman Bishop and I hope it may also be a sign of hope for all those who aspire to break new ground. By it, we recommit ourselves to the continuing fruitful dialogue between faith and learning and our shared endeavour to be beacons of possibility. Together, we are ‘founded in faith, creating community, serving society.’”
John Evans will receive a Doctor of Science for his outstanding contribution to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as past president and to the University of Chester as a member of the University Council.
He was chairman of the Chester Association of Estate Agents Surveyors and Valuers from 1977-1978; chairman of the Merseyside and Isle of Man Branch of RICS 1981; president of the General Practice Division RICS from 1998-1999; Governor for Nuffield Hospitals (Nuffield Health) 1989-2011 and deputy chairman 2001-2011; Hon Life President Nuffield Health 2012-present; governor at the University of Chester 1997-2017; governor at Moreton Hall School 2017-present; president of Chester City Club 2001-2002 and chairman Chester City Club 2010- 2013.
John said: “It has been an enormous privilege to serve on the Governing Council of the University for some 20 years and to witness the transition from the former College to a highly respected and internationally recognised University has been quite remarkable. To receive an honorary degree is truly a huge and humbling honour.”
Also being made an honorary graduate is Canon Jeffrey Turnbull who will receive a Doctor of Education for his outstanding contribution to education within the diocese and the University of Chester as a member of the University Council.
Following 18 years in teaching, culminating in a headship and a short period in a local education authority office, Jeff had the privilege of serving as director of education for the Diocese of Chester for over 26 years.
Jeff served on the Board of the National Society and the Church of England’s Board of Education and was the first chair of the Association of Anglican Directors of Education.
He continues to serve on 10 local educational charities and has the honour of being deputy-president of the University Council, a body on which he has served (with its predecessor) since 1991.
Jeff said: “To be associated with the University of Chester at a time when it has seen remarkable growth and tremendous success is in itself a great privilege. To receive an honorary degree from this historic institution with its Christian foundation humbles me beyond words.”