Brigadier Hugh Pye

Doctor of Laws

9 July 2003 - Orator: Professor Michael Stevens

Mr Chancellor, as CLIC Professor of Paediatric Oncology at this University it is my great privilege to introduce Brigadier Hugh Pye who has done so much to support and develop the work of the charity by whom my Chair was endowed.

Hugh William Kellow Pye was educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the 12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) in 1958, and served his regiment and his country with great distinction until his retirement from the army in 1992, since when he has been Treasurer (and de facto, Chief Executive) of the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol.

For 36 years Hugh Pye’s military career took him across the world. He served in the Middle East, Cyprus, Germany, Hong Kong and the United States. Three times he was posted to Northern Ireland where, at the height of the troubles, he was Commanding Officer of his regiment, by then the renamed 9th/12th Royal Lancers – one of the most distinguished cavalry regiments in the British Army. He was Mentioned in Dispatches for his service in Ulster and later had the honour of receiving the regiment’s new guidon from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. He was subsequently posted to the Ministry of Defence, to Cyprus, where he was Deputy Chief of Staff and Commander of the British Contingent of the United Nations Forces, to the Army Staff College, and to the Oman Command and Staff College, which he founded and built.  He ended his military career as Deputy Commander South West District and Commander of the British Contingent Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land) – a role that saw him directing operations on the geographical flanks of NATO and required, amongst other things, a commitment to annual training in the arctic circle.

At that stage a lesser man, satisfied with such achievement, would perhaps have settled for a life of peaceful retirement. Hugh Pye, however, re-launched himself in an entirely new direction as Treasurer of the Society of Merchant Venturers.

This prestigious organisation received its first charter from Edward VI in 1552 and it has since played a major role in the commercial and economic life of Bristol, including that of this University. It has had an influence far outreaching the confines of the city and although originally founded with commercial concerns for a select group of merchants, it has matured and redirected its influence over the years for the benefit of the citizens of Bristol. It was, Mr Chancellor, in this spirit that Hugh Pye addressed the responsibilities of his new role.

In addition to the considerable administrative and managerial tasks of this post, Brigadier Pye has extended his work and commitment to the support of endowments and other charitable works both connected with the Venturers and elsewhere. His contributions include work across the fields of education, youth, and the underprivileged, in Bristol and further afield. He is Chairman of Governors at Colston’s Collegiate School and a Governor at Colston’s Girls’ School; Treasurer of St Monica’s Home; Vice-Chairman of the South West Foundation and previously a Trustee of the Greater Bristol Foundation; he is a patron of Fast Track and of Bristol Foyer - projects which support and guide underprivileged young people into housing and work. He has continued his military connections as Colonel of the 9th / 12th Lancers and as Honorary Colonel both of the Leicestershire and Derbyshire Yeomanry and of the City and County of Bristol Army Cadet Force. Last year he was an official pall bearer at the funeral of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

It is clear from all the testimony I have read and heard about Hugh Pye, that he is valued in these tasks not merely for his vision, and for his formidable organisational and influencing skills, but for his prodigious energies which derive from a deep concern for those who find themselves in a less fortunate place in our society.

Mr Chancellor, my personal knowledge of Hugh Pye comes from his Chairmanship of the CLIC charity, Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood, and it is to this aspect of his work I will now turn.

Founded in 1976 by Dr Bob Woodward, from its earliest days CLIC decided to concentrate on three specific elements to help children and young people with cancer, and their families: Medical Resources, Practical Help and Research. These three areas remain the focus of CLIC's work today. Since its start as a local charity to help children with cancer and leukaemia and their families in the South West, twenty years later CLIC has been transformed into one of Britain’s most important national children’s cancer charities, offering help and support to a growing number of families across the UK.

CLIC was one of the first organisations to offer an all-embracing approach towards the care of children with cancer and leukaemia and their families and recognised the need for free, self-catering accommodation to support families who often spend a great deal of time away from home during their child’s illness. The charity now funds seven ‘homes from home’ across the United Kingdom close to children’s cancer treatment units, where families can stay, free of charge, for as long as necessary whilst children are receiving treatment for cancer or leukaemia. CLIC also fund specialist doctors, nurses and play specialists who work across the UK and provide care for these children both at home and in hospital.

The CLIC Research Unit was established at this University in 1985, followed by the endowment of the CLIC Chair of Paediatric Oncology in 1990 – the first such Chair to be appointed in the United Kingdom and the post I have been honoured to hold for the past two years. The charity, through its scientific advisory committee, regularly awards grants for research into aspects of childhood cancer both locally and to academic units in other hospitals and universities.

CLIC is an enormous success but it was not ever thus. Several years ago, the charity was experiencing serious difficulties. Hugh Pye was asked to accept the challenge of reconstruction. He tackled this new task with determination, tact and the commitment of sizeable time and effort. He assembled an entirely new board of Trustees and gained the confidence of the many CLIC branches and fundraisers. He reversed the charity’s financial position and ensured that £1 million pledged to support the rebuilding of the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children could be paid. CLIC was able not merely to stabilise its position but to further develop its role. It is no exaggeration to say that CLIC’s current strength, its national role and its continued relationship with our University owe all to Hugh Pye’s drive and inspiring leadership. His concern for the staff and for the many loyal supporters on whom the charity depend is clear evidence of his humanity in action. His interest in the academic activities supported by CLIC are an example of his scholarship. And the state of the organisation today is evidence of his vision to bring hope to those affected by cancer in childhood.

What more, then, of Hugh Pye the man? He has enjoyed polo as player and referee but describes himself now as a fanatical gardener and fisherman. He has an impressive command of foreign languages, speaking French, German, Greek, Turkish and Arabic - linguistic skills ably used in his military career. Hugh is a family man and, notwithstanding his remarkable abilities, such achievements could not have been possible without the support of his wife, Mary, and his children Robert and Victoria. It has been with particular pride that those associated with Hugh greeted the award of his OBE in this summer’s Birthday Honours List. A richly deserved recognition of his achievements, as is the honour we confer on him today

Mr Chancellor, I present to you Hugh William Kellow Pye as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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