Citations and Speeches


115th Congregation (1982)

O.B.E., Hon.D.H., M.A.

The Public Orator Dr. Arnold Chia-Loh Hsieh, B.SC., M.D., D.SC., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present John Henry Bremridge for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

John Bremridge was born on July 12, 1925, on an orange farm in Transvaal - his father had gone to South Africa after the First World War to grow oranges. The family returned to the United Kingdom in 1933 in order to be together while John and his two sisters went to school. His father was killed in 1941 while serving as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. He served for four years as a captain in the Army. After the War, he went to Oxford to read law and received an M.A, in 1949. It may be of interest to students, who usually do not pay much attention to such matters, that John Bremridge got his first and only job by visiting the university's appointments board. Other than a desire to go overseas, he was not quite sure what he wanted to do and so 'shipping' came to mind. The job he got was junior executive of a shipping firm in Hong Kong at an annual salary of £350 rising to £450 in three years. During the subsequent years he rose to become chairman of that company. While John Bremridge likes to refer to himself as a 'good second-rate businessman', and he is surely entitled to his own opinion, the facts indicate that there has been nothing second-rate in his achievements and services to the community. During the thirty-one years to his retirement from the private sector in 1980, he served on numerous advisory Boards and Councils. These included the Trade Development Council, Hong Kong Tourist Association, Corruption Prevention Advisory Committee and Country Parks Board, to name but a few. He also served as an unofficial member of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council. As an active member of the University Court, Council, and Finance Committee, and the Robert Black College Committee of Management, his advice and guidance was particularly appreciated during a period of expansion in the University. His contribution to the deliberations of University affairs was drawn from his vast experience in commerce and industry, and reflected the needs and expectations of the community.

John Bremridge regards his appointment to the Universities and Polytechnic Grants Committee as one of the most rewarding. He served on the UPGC for five years, (from 1975 to the end of 1980), the last three years as chairman of the Committee. He viewed the UPGC, with its strong overseas academic membership, as a means of reinforcing the autonomy of the local institutions of higher learning. Contrary to popular belief, the UPGC is not interested in the details of the University budget, but only in the direction of its development. Since the two are intimately related, in fact almost impossible to separate, it is understandable that confusion has arisen in the minds of many. By preventing direct conflict between the Government and the institutions of higher learning and ensuring that money supplied by the Government is wisely spent, the UPGC has gained the respect and confidence of both. An example of the usefulness of the UPGC comes to mind in the matter of student numbers. The University's view is a simple one and was expressed 18 years ago by the late Sir Lindsay Ride in his address to the graduating class of 1964. After noting that the University was compelled to turn away approximately fifty per cent of those trained in our schools who qualify for entrance he went on to say: 'No community of four million souls, with the wealth, potential, and resources of manpower, and the international challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities of Hong Kong, can afford to treat its youth thus, nor can it leave their education to others and expect to survive... The University I now leave is ready to meet the challenge. It can train four thousand, six thousand, even ten thousand, if the community so wishes...' Those words were said before the establishment of the Grants Committee and were presumably addressed to the Government. With the formation of the UPGC the task of ensuring an orderly expansion of the universities and the polytechnic fell within its purview. During his tenure on the UPGC, John Bremridge, while fully aware of the need for more tertiary and vocational training for the youth of Hong Kong, insisted that expansion be at a rate consistent with the community's ability to pay and the institutions' ability to absorb the increased numbers without lowering of standards. I am sure that the University, in retrospect, will be grateful for the orderly, if somewhat slower, rate of expansion that has taken place. The University is particularly grateful to John Bremridge for his delicate touch while keeping a steady hand on the tiller.

Mr. Chancellor, for his services to the community John Bremridge was honoured by Her Majesty with the O.B.E. in 1976; for his services to the community, and especially his service to higher education in Hong Kong the University would also like to honour him and I request your Excellency to confer upon John Henry Bremridge the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.