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Honorary degrees awarded at Bristol University today [July 12]

Press release issued: 12 July 2002

Media release
Honorary degrees awarded at Bristol University today
[July 12]

Bristol University is awarding Honorary degrees to two prominent people at today's degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building.

Professor Philip Rahtz, Bristol graduate and former Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of York, will receive his degree of Doctor of Letters at the 11.15 am ceremony. Mr Balram Gidoomal, CBE, businessman, lecturer and author, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Laws at the 2.30 pm ceremony.

Professor Rahtz was born in Bristol in 1921. His father was a local schoolmaster of Polish descent, and he grew up in a large family at 27 Cotham Hill, Bristol. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School and left school with few academic aspirations. He enlisted as an aircraftman in the RAF during the Second World War. His war was uneventful but he became friends with an archaeologist, Ernest Greenfield, and Philip Rahtz caught the bug of archaeology. When he left the RAF he set up a photographic studio.

In 1953 the Bristol Water Board began to construct the Chew Valley Lake. It had one known archaeological site, a Roman road that crossed it. Brian O'Neil, the Chief Inspector from London, suggested that Philip investigate this road and said he could pay him to do so. As a result Philip began a career as a professional archaeologist.

He was asked by the School of History at Birmingham University to run summer excavations for its students at a deserted village on the Cotswolds and soon found himself with a junior lectureship in medieval history at the University. In 1978 he was appointed to the Professorship of Archaeology at York.

Philip Rahtz's archaeological career has spanned over half a century - he is still researching and excavating his home village in Kirkdale. He was President of the Council for British Archaeology and championed the causes of local and amateur societies. He has excavated 51 sites in this time, and not one of these remains unpublished.

Mr Balram (Ram) Gidoomal grew up in Kenya in the 1950s and 60s and was the first non-Muslim head boy of the Aga Khan school in Mombassa. Undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Physics at Imperial College, London, were followed by a 'safe job in a bank' as an operations research analyst at Lloyds Bank International.

He left the bank and joined his uncle's multinational firm based in Geneva, Switerzland. By 1991 he had become the UK Group Chief Executive and Group Vice-Chairman of a corporate that had over 7,000 employees worldwide.

At the age of 40 he took early retirement in order to concentrate full-time on charitable activities, to which he felt God was calling him. One of his earliest initiatives was setting up a Christmas Cracker Charitable Trust - raising over £5 million for relief and development projects in the developing world. Ram has devoted much of his charitable work to furthering mutual understanding between ethnic communities.

As well as his commitment to helping the poor and to furthering the cause of racial integration, Ram Gidoomal has also become involved in developing business opportunities for a variety of ethnic minority communities, not only Asian, but African Caribbean as well. An early initiative was the South Asian development partnership.

He was soon much in demand for his advice from a variety of national organisations. He became a business adviser to the Prince's Youth Trust, a member of the 'Better Regulation Task Force' of the Cabinet Office and a patron of the Small Business Bureau. He regularly advises both the Bank of England and 10 Downing Street. His outstanding national profile as a business leader led to Ram Gidoomal being sought as an adviser by groups as diverse as the Covent Garden Market Authority, the Apples and Pears Research Council and the Stamp Advisory Committee. In 2000 he came fifth in the election for Mayor of London, even without the support of a major political party.

In 1997 he was made a Freeman of the City of London and in 1998 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Honours list.

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Friday, 12-Jul-2002 09:56:19 BST

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