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Honourary Degrees From Coventry University

Jevon Thorpe, Managing Director of London Taxis International makers of the world famous black cab, is being conferred with an Honorary Master of Technology by Coventry University.

The degree is being conferred in Coventry Cathedral at 2.30pm on Thursday, 19 November, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the local motor industry.

From early on, transport was an interest for Jevon. Building a sailing boat in the front room of their council bungalow in Wolvey; designing a trailer; working on the family car; and waiting up until midnight on his last day as a 16-year-old so he could drive the family car for the first time on the public highway.

Jevon contemplated a career with the police force, but was shocked by their recommendation that he should first get a degree. Nothing had been further from his mind, but when he did decide to take their advice Coventry University's Industrial Design degree course seemed the logical choice.

It didn't take him long to decide on his choice of career and he went for it. He chose an industrial placement with Reliant where he could experience all aspects of the design process. He made an instant impression and Reliant supported his final year of study and grabbed him on graduation.

His first project was to design the interior of Reliant's SS1 sports car. This was followed by his design for the company's first hatchback, the Rialto. He then decided, with Reliant's approval, to set up his own consultancy in his spare time, working from his father's garage.Jevon soon established a steady stream of clients and a reputation for flair and success. One of these clients was Carbodies, maker of the London black cab, who offered him a full-time post.

The implementation of his modern interior design provided a fresh focus for the firm - and brought him a management role with the company.Next Jevon's attention was drawn towards the challenge of wheelchair access for taxi passengers. The enormous success of his design, producing the first taxi in the world with wheelchair accessibility, inspired the company. But his greatest triumph was yet to come.

The company had only one dated design, falling foul of new regulations at every turn. Unless the company was to wither a complete and fundamental redesign was needed.

Working in his own time Jevon set about doing just this. His challenge was: how to remodel and improve without destroying the visual image so famous and so familiar to us all?

When Jevon presented his case, the Board gave him the go ahead to develop a full project specification, but on a tight budget and within a six-month time frame. Little more than two years later the stunning TX1 emerged, with safety, accessibility for the disabled and low emissions major emphases. In the TX1 and Jevon Thorpe Coventry had a world-beater.

The company, now London Taxis International, and with Jevon as its Managing Director, faces the future with renewed confidence.

Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University Dr Michael Goldstein CBE, said:

"In recognition of his outstanding contributions to industrial design, and to those with disabilities; for his determination and commitment to the automotive industry of Coventry; and in so doing for bringing enormous distinction to us, here at Coventry University, we are honoured to confer the degree of Master of Technology on Jevon Thorpe."

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Coventry City Councillor Tom White CBE - a pioneer in social service provision, is being conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration by Coventry University.

The Doctorate is being conferred in Coventry Cathedral at 3.30pm on Wednesday, 18 November, for outstanding public service and particularly the welfare of children.

Tom White, the eldest son of a Welsh miner, left his village aged 16 to find work to help support his sick father, his mother and four younger brothers.

Following service in the RAF he worked in a National Insurance Office, distributing benefits to people in need. Around this time he became involved in local youth work and in the Labour Party, becoming Chair of the League of Labour Youth.

In his mid-20s, from only ever having seen two books in the family home, he went to Swansea University to study social science, and from there to the London School of Economics to train as a social worker.

During this time Tom's deep-rooted passions for human welfare, social justice and politics emerged. Following an unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Parliament, Tom White decided to use a professional rather than a political route to bring about the real social change he wanted to see.

He took a job as a social worker in Devon and immediately made his mark. His philosophy was that families needed to be kept together, rather than children being separated from their families, as was the practice of the time. He pressed his approach through the National Association of Childcare Officers and also used his Labour Party contacts to lobby for change and in these ways became a powerful influence on Government policy.

When Tom came to Coventry, he was the first Director of Social Services in the country. His contributions to social welfare in Coventry were prolific and profound, bringing about fundamental and innovative changes in the ways in which social services are perceived and provided.

Old people's homes were replaced by residential care and very sheltered housing - giving security, independence and dignity back to the elderly. But one of his greatest achievements was in the rehabilitation of those with learning or physical disabilities, and their integration back into the community.

Under Tom White's guidance Coventry became the centre of progressive social services provision in Britain, attracting the brightest and the best, with 27 of his staff going on to become Directors of Social Services themselves.

After 15 years in Coventry Tom became Chief Executive of NCH Action for Children. Here he became as powerful an influence on voluntary sector social care as he had been in the statutory sector.

Now retired from NCH, Tom is a City Councillor, Chair of the National Foster Care Association, and member of the Board of Methodist Homes for the Aged to name just three of his continuing responsibilities.

Dr Michael Goldstein CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University said:

"In recognition of his remarkable commitment to public service, and his distinguished role in shaping policy and practice in the provision of quality social care; for his outstanding contributions to improving the quality of life of so many, especially young people in need and at risk, the University is honoured to confer the degree of Doctor of Business Administration on Cllr Tom White CBE."

Cyrrhian Macrae or Floyd Jebson 01203 838352


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CWN / Education / Universities / Coventry University / 13 Nov 98

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM