Mr Richard Brucciani OBE, DL (Doctor of Laws)

Oration by Professor Gordon Campbell

Richard Brucciani has a surname that every resident of Leicester associates with cafés, a craft bakery, and, most of all, ice cream. The family business was established in 1937 by Luigi Brucciani, who opened an Italian coffee shop in Horsefair Street. Eight years later, his son Richard  was born in Leicester. He was educated in the county, at Ratcliffe College, and then moved to London to study, work, and qualify as a Chartered Accountant. Having qualified, he then left the profession and joined the Young Volunteer Force Foundation, which is now known as the Community Development Foundation. The idea of using community development as a means of making local voices heard and creating environments that enhance the quality of people's lives is now commonplace, but the seed of that idea was planted by the Young Volunteer Force for which Richard worked as a young man. The conviction that the community is a potent force for social change has been central to his life ever since.

In 1971 Richard returned to Leicester with the intention of joining the family business, but he soon decided that he would rather develop his own business, which he called Pal International. He began by importing the paper forage hats that were (and are) worn in retail food establishments in the United States. Importing gradually gave way to manufacturing in Lutterworth, and forty years of hard work later, the company has become a global market leader in disinfectant and  cleaning wipes, hygiene workwear and chefs' headwear. The company has offices in Hong Kong and Dubai,  and its global distribution network is centred in warehouses in Lutterworth and Shanghai. In 1970 the name of Pal was unknown; now it is the trusted brand in many industrial sectors, ranging from food manufacturing and service to healthcare, janitorial, engineering and agriculture. As members of the eating public, we most often encounter Pal in the market sector known in the trade as HORECA, a syllabic abbreviation of Hotels, Restaurants and Catering. It is not clear where the business might expand next, but one possibility is surely real estate, where Richard's hidden skills became public 30 years ago when he emerged as the regional winner of the British Monopoly Championship. On the other hand, we might like to remember that in the finals the next day, Richard was bankrupted.

As a University we honour commercial success, but in Richard Brucciani's case we honour much more. He has, for example, worked tirelessly for his sector as Chairman of the CBI National Smaller Firms Council, Founder Chairman of Business Link Leicestershire,  Chairman of the CBI East Midlands Regional Council, Vice Chairman of the East Midlands Regional Assembly, Chairman of the Leicestershire Employment and Skills Board,  Member of the National Manufacturing Council and Member of the National Advisory Council for Education and Training Targets. He is in demand for such posts partly because of his public spiritedness, but also because of his business acumen.

Richard's commitment to service in the community extends well beyond the world of business and manufacturing. In the education sector, he has served as a Governor of his old school, and has long been the Chairman of Governors of the Samworth Enterprise Academy. In the spiritual sector, he serves as a Trustee of St Martins Cathedral Properties Ltd, and for the past 14 years has served as Chair of Trustees of the Chaplaincy to this University. Beyond the Chaplaincy, his voluntary work for the University has included membership of the University Council and of our Careers Advisory Committee.

In the city of Leicester, Richard Brucciani's most prominent initiative has been Our Leicester Day, which is an annual community event centred on Leicester Market. The idea came to him when he was on holiday in France, and visited a town in which picnic tables were set out in the square and local clubs and associations came together to promote their causes and recruit new members. Most visitors on encountering such a scene would mill happily around the stands and store the experience in the mind as a memorably French occasion. For Richard Brucciani, the champion of the community, what he saw was a model for what could be created in Leicester. For many years our diverse communities have staged events ranging from Diwali to Caribbean Carnival, but until Richard returned from his holiday, there was no event intended for everyone. Being the sort of person he is, he prompted embarked on the creation of Our Leicester Day. Participants have included Vikings, actors, writers and a robot, and scores of charities, community groups, societies and clubs. Some are wonderfully frivolous, but others exist to help members of the community cope with cancer, HIV, stillbirths, hearing and visual impairments, sexual assault and domestic abuse. Although only in its third year, Our Leicester Day has already become embedded in the life of the City, and has indeed expanded to the County. Within the City, it is to be a central feature of our new annual City Festival, which will take place on August Bank Holiday. If you live here, please attend! In the County, the first Harborough Community Day is scheduled for 3 August, followed the next day by 'Community Heroes Day' in Loughborough. At the hands of Richard Brucciani, a good idea has become a better idea, and has spread to the wider community.

Richard Brucciani has twice been honoured by the Crown, first by the award of an OBE and then by his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant for Leicestershire. Now it is our turn to honour a man who has used his formidable business skills to serve the community in which he lives, in part because he has an extraordinary commitment to the transformative power of communities, but also because his public spiritedness knows no bounds.

Mr Chancellor, on the authority of the Senate and the Council, I present to you Richard Brucciani, that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

Written and delivered by Professor Gordon Campbell on 12 July 2013 at 3pm

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