Sir Timothy Colman (1929-2021)

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 1999


Born in Norfolk in 1929, and educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Timothy Colman was a sailor, businessman, Patron of the Arts, and one of Norfolk's favourite sons. After service in the Royal Navy, he changed to a career in business, serving for many years as Chairman of Eastern Counties Newspapers Group (now Archant), as well as a Director of Reckitt & Colman, Whitbreads and Anglia Television. He was a Trustee and former Chairman of the Carnegie UK Trust and also had a distinguished record of public service as a Magistrate, High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1970, and Lord-Lieutenant from 1978 to 2004.

His deep interest in the countryside was reflected in his involvement with The Nature Conservancy Council, National Trust, and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. He was amongst the founders of the University of East Anglia, and served as a Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of their Council. A remarkable sailor, he set the world sailing speed record in 1972, and went on to beat his own record six times over the next 14 years with Crossbow and Crossbow II. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1996.

In 1999 Timothy Colman was presented with the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of Honorary Doctor of the University to Sir Timothy Colman for his long and dedicated life of service to the County of Norfolk and his commitment to the advancement of further and higher education.

When the Order and Knighthood of the Garter was bestowed upon Sir Timothy Colman in 1996 his response was thus, "As much of my life has been related to Norfolk, I like to regard this (honour) in part, at least, as a compliment to the people of this county". This brief review of his work will certainly demonstrate the almost umbilical connection between Sir Timothy and the County of Norfolk. He was born in Norfolk and, other than his education at Dartmouth and Greenwich and his distinguished naval career; he has always lived in the county.

He has a formidable record in business leadership, having served on the boards of Reckitt & Colman (1978-89); Eastern Counties Newspapers (1969-96, as Chairman); Whitbreads (1980-85) and the Anglia Television Group (1987-94). Sir Timothy identifies a series of common characteristics of these enterprises: a 'family culture', respect for individuals, robust ethical standards and the sustenance of growth without the sacrifice of essential values - this says much about his own motivating values and the type of business culture he has always endeavoured to engender.

This set of principles, of course, is thoroughly consistent with an eminent life spent in public service, of which there are many strands. He was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1970 and has been Lord Lieutenant since 1978, succeeding Sir Edmund Bacon. He has used the office of the Queen's representative in Norfolk to promote, with huge energy and commitment, co-operation between various groups concerned with causes related to the social cohesion and economic prosperity of Norfolk. In the world of the arts, Sir Timothy is Chairman of the Trustees of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, President of the Friends of Norwich Museums and a prime mover in 'the Tate in East Anglia' initiative. In the matter of countryside affairs, he is former Chairman of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, former Chairman of the Norfolk Agricultural Association and h as served on the English Countryside Commission, Advisory Committee for England of the Nature Conservancy Council, and the Water Space Amenity Commission. He is proud of the role which Norfolk has played in pioneering new approaches to conservation and rural development: Norfolk in turn is most grateful to him. He is currently active in the 'Shaping the Future' initiative, spearheading a focussed approach to rural regeneration in the county.

Sir Timothy's contribution to further and higher education in East Anglia is profound and stems from a belief in the significance of HEI's in regional, social and economic development. He played a major role in the initiation of the University of East Anglia, heading its original appeal and subsequently chairing its Council. He has been Pro-Chancellor of UEA ever since.

At this particular ceremony, of course, we especially honour his contribution to City College, which is a valued and much esteemed regional partner of Anglia Polytechnic University. Sir Timothy's support for the work of the college and its students has been unstinting. He has addressed graduation ceremonies and presented awards. He has given the improvement of facilities at City College an unprecedented profile in the city and beyond, both through up front personal involvement (he led the foundation stone ceremony and accompanied Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal to the opening of the 'Norfolk Building' in October 1998 - the largest and most significant building development on campus in over 50 years, offering new workshop and laboratory facilities for the next millennium). He has been very active behind the scenes - lobbying, encouraging and promoting the work of our staff and students.

One of his most enduring interests has been the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust of which he was appointed a Life Trustee in 1966, and was its Chairman for 5 years. The terms of Andrew Carnegie's legacy were that the income "should be applied for the improvement of the well-being of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland, remembering that new needs are constantly arising as the masses advance". The aim is as true today as when the trust was founded.

Now, if all were not enough, Sir Timothy is a sailor of international repute, held the world sailing speed record for 14 years and is no mean watercolour painter. When asked which people have been the most influential in his life he cites Sir Peter Scott, Lord Franks, Owen Chadwick and, perhaps most interesting of all, Ted Ellis, the much-loved Norfolk countryman.

Your Public Orator, Vice Chancellor, has no doubt whatever that there are many good souls in Norfolk who will happily testify that Sir Timothy has been the prime influence in their lives. With this in mind, it is with much pleasure that I ask you to confer upon Sir Timothy Colman the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University."