University of Leicester celebrates achievements of distinguished personalities

Posted by ap507 at Jan 20, 2016 10:43 AM |
Great contributions recognised with honorary degrees on 21 and 22 January

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 20 January 2016

Photographs of all three honorands available to download from:

Three prominent figures who have made great contributions to the city of Leicester’s sporting reputation, business success and interfaith understanding will be honoured by the University of Leicester at their graduation ceremonies this month.

Honorary degrees will be conferred to King Power Group founder and Chairman of Leicester City Football Club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha; founder and former Chairman of Shoe Zone shoe retailers, Michael Smith; and Head Imam at Leicester Central Mosque, Muhammad Shahid Raza.

They will be awarded their honorary degrees at the University’s degree ceremonies at De Montfort Hall on 21 and 22 January, before an audience of graduating students and their families.

Muhammad Shahid Raza, OBE, currently serves as Head Imam at Leicester Central Mosque and has spent his life working with Muslim community groups and on intra-faith dialogue locally, nationally and internationally. He will be conferred a Doctor of Laws degree at 3pm on Thursday 21 January.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha founded King Power Group, one of Asia’s leading duty free retailers, and is Chairman of Leicester City Football Club, which he acquired in 2010. He will be awarded a Doctor of Laws degree at 11 am on Friday 22 January.

Leicester-born Michael Smith acquired BensonShoe in 1980 with his brother which they grew to become Shoe Zone in 2000, currently owning over 500 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Michael served as Chairman until 2014. He will receive a Doctor of Laws degree at 3pm on Friday 22 January.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are delighted to award honorary degrees to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their fields of interest.  They will have had an impact on Leicester, Leicestershire and society at large.

“We are proud of the association of our distinguished honorands with the University of Leicester and we hope that their personal accomplishments serve as inspiration to our own graduates as we celebrate their academic achievements.”


Notes to editors:


Muhammad Shahid Raza OBE - Doctor of Laws - Thursday 21 January, 3pm

Muhammad Shahid Raza serves as Head Imam at Leicester Central Mosque and is a leading Muslim cleric and teacher.   He was born and educated in Eastern India, and received his higher Islamic training there. In 1978 he was invited by the Islamic Centre in Leicester to serve as its Head Imam.  In Leicester he has established a tradition of inter-faith dialogue by welcoming to the Centre many groups and individuals from different faith communities. He has also actively participated in the formation of the Federation of Mosques in the city, one of the first organisations in the UK to facilitate intra-faith dialogue within the Muslim community. From 1978 to 1984 he served as Head Teacher at the Islamic Centre evening school, and used this opportunity to impart moral and Islamic education to young people.   He still serves in the capacity of Head Imam and leads the Friday prayer at the Leicester Central Mosque.  In 1984, he moved to London to live, and joined The Muslim College, at the time a pioneering institution in Western Europe for the training of Imams and community leaders. Here he designed and conducted the very first in-service training course for Imams.  He is currently Executive Secretary and Registrar of The Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK and is engaged in a number of initiatives directed towards the wider community in Britain, Europe and North America through his association with organisations such as the InterFaith Network UK and the InterFaith Youth Trust, London.  In the 2008 New Year’s Honours he was awarded the OBE for services to the Muslim community in Leicester.

Press comment: “The city of Leicester has always been a place of significance in my life since I emigrated here from India in the late 70s. One of my first responsibilities as Imam of Leicester Mosque and then Leicester Central Mosque was to oversee the moral and spiritual education of children. In addition to this I have always strived to instil in my students a desire to achieve academically and integrate themselves as valuable members and contributors to society. I am delighted to note that many of my former students have gone on to graduate from this university and of those many are now working in this city as Civil Servants, Teachers and Doctors or owners of small businesses. For this reason I reflect on this award fondly and I hope it will further inspire the young Muslims of Leicester.”

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha - Doctor of Laws - Friday 22 January, 11am

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is founder of King Power Group, one of Asia’s leading duty free retailers, and is the Chairman of Leicester City Football Club.  He was a pioneer in an establishment of the duty free business in Thailand and has become one of Thailand’s leading businessmen.   He began his travel retail career in Hong Kong, returning to his native Thailand to open the country’s first downtown duty free shop as a joint venture with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, before expanding the business to Cambodia, Macau and China, as well as Thailand’s international airports.  Today, King Power Group operates the duty and tax free businesses at both the country’s airports and in city centres, and is the master commercial concessionaire at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.  The group has complemented its highly successful core retail activities to include other tourism and travel related business – theatre, restaurant and hotel and in-flight duty free business, and employs over 10,000 people. It is also committed to raising funds and actively participating in projects for the less privileged in society through the King Power Foundation.  In addition to his business interests, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has a passion for sport, especially polo and football. He established an outdoor polo field in Thailand, ranked as one of the top international facilities, and has served as the President of Thailand Polo Association (TPA).  In 2010, he acquired Leicester City Football Club, and currently serves as the Club’s Chairman.

Press comment: “I would like to express my thanks to The University of Leicester for this great honour and to the people of Leicester for the warm welcome they have extended to me, my family and colleagues since King Power first arrived in the city.

“I feel very fortunate because I do what I love, so I put love into everything I do. I came to the football industry with Leicester City because of my love for football and the Club and its fans have already repaid me several times over with their passion and loyalty. It is a great privilege to be the Chairman of this great Club and an accepted member of this wonderful community.

“What has impressed me the most is the people of Leicester and their united will for us to succeed. My family and I cannot achieve our ambitions for the Club alone, so an honour such as this is as much for the people of Leicester as it is for me.”

Michael Smith - Doctor of Laws - Friday 22 January, 3pm

Michael Smith is founder and former Chairman of Shoe Zone shoe retailers.  He was born locally and was educated at Uppingham School.  He qualified as a Chartered Accountant before working as Finance Director of Drury Holdings from1965 to 1972, and Francis Parker from 1972 to 1979.   His grandfather was a footwear manufacturer and owned shares in BensonShoe, a shoe store company.  In 1980, Michael Smith and his brother were able to buy out BensonShoe, which by then had 48 stores; they then went on to acquire other local shoe companies, such as the Oliver Group, Shoefayre and Stead and Simpson.  The Shoe Zone name was adopted in 2000, and Michael Smith served as the company’s chairman until 2014.  He also served as Non-executive Director of the Market Harborough Building Society and General Commissioner of Taxes (Leicester Division), including a period as Chairman.   Shoe Zone currently owns over 500 stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, sells 20 million pairs of shoes annually and has 3,750 employees.  The Shoe Zone Trust was established under Michael Smith’s chairmanship in 2005, and has made charitable donations of over £1 million.

Press comment: “Having lived and worked in Leicestershire all my life and never attended any university I am especially honoured and proud to receive this award.”

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