Birmingham’s second longest-serving council leader Mike Whitby has become a ‘doctor’ after picking up an honorary degree from Aston University.
The top Tory was joined by former cabinet member Lord Kenneth Baker and Birmingham businessman Wing Yip to pick up degrees from the university this week.
It is the first major honour he has received since his eight-year term as city council leader ended in May.
A citation from the university praised him for his work to promote the city and turn around a number of failing services as leader of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
It added: “Mike is synonymous with transformational infrastructure developments across Birmingham, including the £600 million New Street Station development, and the £188 million new Library of Birmingham.
“He launched the city’s award-winning masterplan the ‘Big City Plan’, has transformed Birmingham’s international links with key growth economies in China and the Middle East, and prioritised uplifting the city’s brand and reputation.”
In a speech to graduates at Birmingham’s Town Hall, Coun Whitby, who remains the leader of the council’s Conservative opposition group as well as chairman and managing director of engineering firm Skeldings, encouraged them to go and change the world.
He quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”
“I was delighted and proud to receive this honorary doctorate from such a distinguished institution,” he added.
Some 1,800 students have graduated from Aston this week.
Despite being one of the longest-serving Birmingham City Council leaders, Coun Whitby has not, unlike most of his recent predecessors such as Sir Albert Bore, Sir Bernard Zissman and Sir Neville Bosworth, yet been recognised at the highest level with a knighthood, or seat in the House of Lords.
Businessman Wing Yip has been recognised for his sponsorship of Chinese students through the W Wing Yip and Brothers Bursaries scheme as well as his contribution to the city over many years.
Most notably he handed the city its 40ft Chinese pagoda, which stands at Holloway Circus, as a thank-you to the city which welcomed him and his family and allowed his specialist wholesale Chinese grocer’s company to flourish.