A self-made Birmingham businessman who went on to become chairman and chief executive of a major United States industrial firm is today due to receive an Order of the British Empire medal from the Queen.

Derek C Hathaway is being recognised for his charity work and services to industry in Britain and America.

He said he was delighted to be recognised by the Palace.

“I was truly humbled when I heard I was in line for the OBE and of course it’s a reflection of all the hard work by people around me who have also contributed to the various charities I’m involved with,” he said. “I found out about it earlier this year and said I would be willing to accept it and I can’t believe that the day is finally here.”

The 64-year-old left Moseley Grammar School at the age of 16 and started working as a junior draftsman at a city heating and engineering firm.

He later went on to become a founder and partner in the business Combat Engineering.

The company went public in the 1980s when it was renamed Dartmouth Investments Limited and it was bought up by the small US firm Harsco.

After the sale Mr Hathaway was invited to relocate to Pennsylvania to be part of the company.

He rose through the ranks and oversaw the development of the firm into multi-billion dollar Harsco Corporation with a staff of more than 20,000. The Harsco Corporation is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and deals in steel, construction, railways and energy around the world.

In recognition of his achievements in the States, Mr Hathaway, who was a magistrate and school governor before he emigrated, was also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honour in 1998.

The medal recognises people who were born outside the US but who have since gone on to great things in America.

Now retired and living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mr Hathaway has three sons and four grand-daughters. His charity work has included donations and voluntary work for the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill Museum, HMS Belfast and the aircraft museum in Duxford, East Anglia, which celebrates the British and American airmen of the Second World War.

“Living in America and coming from England the Duxford museum was something that really appealed to me and obviously the recognition of this fosters the good relationship that the two nations have,” Mr Hathaway said. “It’s been an honour to be associated with these various charities over the years and something that it’s been a pleasure to work on.”

He still maintains links with the Midlands where he still has family.

“We’re based primarily in America but obviously this is where I’m from and this is where I was brought up and I’m pleased to receive this recognition,” he said.

New Harsco chairman and chief executive officer, Salvatore D Fazzolari said: “The board, management, and all of Harsco’s employees are pleased and proud to hear of this personal accomplishment and offer to Mr Hathaway our congratulations and warmest best wishes.”