Derby Graduation – July 2019 – Honorand John Forkin

Derby Graduation – July 2019 – Honorand John Forkin

November 15, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


PRO CHANCELLOR AND CHAIRMAN: I now have great
pleasure in inviting Professor Judith Lamie, Pro Vice-Chancellor External Affairs, to give
the commendation for the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of the University
to John Forkin. PROFESSOR JUDITH LAMIE: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor,
honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today John
Forkin, for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University. John is Managing Director
of Marketing Derby, an organisation promoting Derby and Derbyshire in order to attract and
support investment. John is passionate about the city and its people and has been instrumental
in driving forward and supporting the city’s regeneration. John grew up in Normanton, an
inner city neighbourhood in Derby, and later moved to London to study Politics and Government.
After graduating he lived in Geneva and Groningen before setting up his own company that developed
regional strategies in UK cities, including Bristol and Manchester. But it was John’s
underlying passion for his home town, and an ambition to help change its fortunes, which
led him to return and join Marketing Derby in 2006. Derby City Council and Derby Cityscape
had just launched its 15-year master plan to attract £2 billion of investment to modernise
the city centre and create 10,000 jobs. Under John’s leadership Marketing Derby has since
been instrumental in helping to drive forward and promote the plan. The company has attracted
over 5,000 jobs and £359 million of capital investment, including Sky TV Contact Centre,
Florida Turbine Technology, Dedienne Aerospace and Carluccios, as well as playing a key role
in retaining 7,500 jobs at Bombardier and associated rail supply chain. This year the
Financial Times awarded Marketing Derby as the global winner in the Inward Investment
Digital category, beating Invest in New York and Invest in Hong Kong into second and third
place. John’s expertise in regeneration and the development of cities has taken him
all over the world. He has led urban study tours of Baltimore and Barcelona, been Project
Leader on a World Bank entrepreneur initiative in Bosnia and has given keynote presentations
on urban regeneration strategy in cities across Europe, as well as the Destinations International
2018 Convention in Los Angeles. In 2014, John was awarded Director of the Year by the Institute
of Directors for the East Midlands region. Business Insider magazine has identified John
as being in the top 25 most influential people in the Midlands and has given him a Lifetime
Achievement Award for services to regeneration. We are incredibly fortunate to have John’s
passion and talent focussed on our city here in Derby.
John is also a great supporter of the University. He is a member of our University Court, helping
to shape our strategic direction, and he recognises the University as being fundamental to the
city’s fortunes. John’s work in the region has opened up many doors to our graduates
as they embark on their careers. Chancellor, in recognition of his tireless work as an
ambassador of the city of Derby and his strong support for the University, we are delighted
to award John Forkin the honorary degree of Doctor of the University. JOHN FORKIN: I didn’t recognise myself in any of that. Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor,
Lord Leftenant, Honoured Guests, Mayor of Derby, ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly
graduands of 2019. I’m incredibly honoured and will keep my response to three brief points.
First, to the University and to the graduates here today – it occurred to me that as many
of you were being born so was the University. The University of Derby is only just over
25 years old and like you is still growing and maturing, but we heard from Kath earlier
it now sits in the top quartile nationally thanks to you, to William, Kath and her wonderful
team. Graduates, this is your day. You worked for it, treasure it, thank your family and
friends and remember use your success as a positive platform for the greater good. Second,
the city of Derby – as Judith said, I was born here, I lived here, I moved away, I came
back and for 300 years this city of innovation has given so much to the world. Ideas, Erasmus
Darwin, John Flamsteed, Herbert Spencer, industry and the world’s first factory, the world headquarters
of Rolls-Royce today, and the astonishing art of Joseph Wright of Derby. Yet Derby is
a city that has to fight its corner and I’m a proud member of that team. I ask one thing
of you here today which is as you go around to the world please try and say something
positive about Derby, your time here and the wonderful County of Derbyshire. Third, I want
to thank my family, friends and colleagues. My Mom and Dad came here as immigrants from
Ireland and my pride in that fact is infinite. My Dad did a really tough job – he put up
scaffolding on the giant power station cooling towers that dotted this region. He died aged
only 36 years and my Mom brought us up in an inner-city neighbourhood. She’s here today
together with my two brothers, Neil and Gerald, my sister Marion is in Malawi and is represented
today by her daughter Zoe, a genuine Dr Forkin. My mum taught us right from wrong, she provided
us with a place of love and comfort and still does, and stress the importance of education,
humility and community. And finally I want to thank the other Mrs Forkin, my wonderful
wife Elaine, and our two amazing daughters Katie and Alice who have joined us from London
and Manchester today. Elaine, Katie and Alice have had to live so much of my job – almost
every holiday eventually becoming a city study tour of sorts – and genuinely today’s award
would not be possible without their support, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
My final comment is again to the graduands today. Over life we live in strange times,
interesting times, worrying times, and over life you will have many professional and personal
choices to make. Sometimes they boil down to one of two things; either to build walls
or to build bridges. My advice to you is please, please build bridges. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] PRO CHANCELLOR AND CHAIRMAN: Thank you John.
I’ve known John for many years now and in all that time he’s been a tremendous ambassador
for Derby and Derbyshire, and I think has done a tremendous job in promoting employment,
promoting the city as a good destination for inward investment, and I think this award
is very well deserved. So please give him another round of applause. [APPLAUSE]