Mr Roger Bettles (Doctor of Laws)

Oration by Professor Gordon Campbell

Roger Bettles and Lord GrocottRoger Bettles was until recently Chair of the Council of this University, and a Pro-Chancellor. The language of universities is slightly arcane, so an explanation of these terms may be in order. The ceremonial head of the University is the Chancellor, who wears the most splendid of the gowns on the stage; as Pro-Chancellor, Roger stood in for the Chancellor should need arise. The chief executive of the University, however, is the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor is not answerable to the Chancellor, but rather to the Council. In practice, this means that the Chairman of Council is the boss’s boss, the equivalent in industry of the chairman of the board. That analogy has one important limitation, in that the Chairman of Council is not paid, but rather gives his time and expertise voluntarily. Roger Bettles served on Council for 15 years, for the last six of which he was Chair.  Throughout these years he has been unfailingly supportive of the Vice-Chancellor and of this University.

This is, for Roger, his local university. He is a Leicester lad, and attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, now Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, which occupies a site immediately adjacent to our campus; there he gained his colours for rugby, a sport to which he remains committed.  He then went on to read Dentistry at Birmingham, where, as he graduated, he was proclaimed Student of the Year and winner of an important prize in orthodontics. He entered the profession, and for many years told the people of Leicester to open wide and assured them that what he was about to do wouldn't hurt. He became interested in dental public health, and after studying his specialism at postgraduate level, became one of the country's first consultants in dental public health.  Simultaneously Roger rose through the ranks of the British Dental Association, including a spell as Chair of the Finance Committee and in 1995-96 serving as National President of the Association.  By this time he had also become Chief Executive of the Fosse Health NHS Trust, and so was able to look learnedly into the mouth of the entire health service in Leicestershire.

What Roger saw, with his diagnostic eye, was a system in need of enhancement. He led the process of establishing the Trust, and then decentralised the management of community health services, created practice-based information systems, and organised a whole range of community health services, managed and organised in localities defined around groups of medical practices. His greatest concern was the enhancement of quality in the health service, and here his initiatives were legion: they include new hospital buildings at Loughborough and Oakham and major extensions elsewhere, timed appointments for Community Nursing services, a Hospital at Home service, terminal and palliative care facilities in Community Hospitals, the development of health centres, an expanded range of outpatient services in small community hospitals throughout the county, a pilot project for guaranteed respite care, a Community Hospital Accreditation Programme, a Primary Care Development programme (including a G.P. Forum) home feeding services for seriously ill patients, enabling more people to receive care at home, where patients usually fare better than in hospital, and the service costs much less.

Some of these activities brought Roger into contact with the University, where his talents and energy and relentless pursuit of quality were soon noticed. In 1998 we recruited him to the Council of the University, which in effect gave him a dentist's stool and a light that enabled him to peer into our gaping maw with a view to ascertaining whether intervention was needed. As he was settling in to this new role, the University appointed a new Vice-Chancellor -- Professor Robert Burgess, now Sir Robert -- who was committed to intervention, with a view to raising the national and international standing of the University, and to raising its aspirations.  Roger unreservedly supported these ambitions, and so took the view that the best way to assist this University was to commit himself wholeheartedly to supporting the initiatives of the Vice-Chancellor.  This support has at times become a full-time commitment, and Roger has become a model of selfless public service over a long period. He never claims responsibility for the many successes in which he has played a part, but rather rejoices in those successes.  In all of these endeavours he has been supported by his wife Heather, and together they have attended hundreds of university functions. Many of these activities exceed any reasonable expectations on our part, including the regular attendance of Roger and Heather at inaugural professorial lectures, a practice that has helped Roger to develop his insights into how the University operates at a departmental level. We are pleased that Heather is with us today, as are their four children.

In September 2013 we opened our new sports centre in Oadby, and named it the Roger Bettles Sports Centre. It is a wholly fitting choice, as the facility honours Roger's passions for sport and for health.  Now we are to honour another aspect of his contribution to the University, which is the selfless service that he has given to its governance.

Mr Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Senate and the Council, I present to you Roger Bettles, that you may confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Written and delivered by Professor Gordon Campbell on 24 January 2014 at 10am

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