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Honorary degrees awarded for those making a positive impact on Chester and Shropshire

The influence made by two eminent individuals on their communities will be celebrated with honorary degrees from the University of Chester.

At 10.30am in Ceremony 7, Jonathan Slater will receive a Master of Business Administration, for his outstanding contribution to the city of Chester as the former Managing Director of The Grosvenor Hotel and board member of Marketing Cheshire.

After training in hospitality and then perfecting his skills in a number of large hotels across the country, Jonathan Slater was appointed The Chester Grosvenor’s Managing Director by the age of 30 and, with the support of the Westminster family, spent the next 30 years building the legacy of one of the country’s finest independent five red star hotels.

Prior to Jonathan’s involvement, The Chester Grosvenor was a well-established hotel with four AA stars, but was tired and needed innovating. Jonathan transformed the hotel to meet modern standards. It was an ambitious project, involving a complete reworking of much of the hotel’s existing internal infrastructure. He paved the way with the conception of a bustling bistro sitting alongside a fine dining restaurant. Thirty years on, these restaurants continue to flourish in their original format – a true testament to Jonathan’s vision. Under his direction, the hotel held a Michelin star for over 25 years, an achievement only equalled by four other English restaurants. He created a spa within the hotel - which was named the second best UK City Spa by Conde Nast Traveller. He also steered the hotel through many awards, everything from industry Cateys to Expedia Awards.

Jonathan retired from The Chester Grosvenor in 2015, but continued to act as a consultant for the Grosvenor. He also turned his talents to a burgeoning opportunity – creating Oddfellows Management Company to provide a new breed to the region’s current boutique hotel offering in the form of Oddfellows Hotels.

Jonathan had already masterminded the launch of the renovated Chester hotel in 2012, providing an 18-bedroomed hotel in a gorgeous Georgian townhouse. He overhauled the business to produce a model that delivered a restaurant, bar, a secret garden, and dramatic event spaces. The interior was playful, yet in keeping with the building’s history and importantly for the guest, it told a narrative and delighted in equal measures. The business model has proved a successful one with the hotel winning awards and running at one of the highest occupancies in the city. 

He launched the collection’s second hotel in April 2017- Oddfellows On The Park, Greater Manchester. A Gothic Victorian mansion was restored to create a 22-bedroomed hotel, restaurant, bar and event spaces, set on 100 acres of one of the region’s most beautiful public parks. Oddfellows On The Park is the only hotel in the UK outside of London to be accepted into the Design Hotels consortium. Jonathan is currently looking for the collection’s third property.

Jonathan has had a major involvement in the global marketing consortium Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). He was an international board director for 21 years, nine of which he stood as Chairman.

He is an inexhaustible champion of the North West and a true ambassador of Chester, visiting Asia and America sometimes thrice yearly, often in conjunction with Marketing Cheshire, of which he is a Director, to promote the region. He also stands as a director of the Chester BID company.

Jonathan has created strong human resources initiatives that have led to strengthen the standard of the North West hospitality scene. He personally mentored and trained some of the industry’s finest including: Mark Bevan, General Manager at Chewton Glen; David Taylor, Chief Operating Officer at Starwood Capital; and Ross Grieve, Managing Director at Seaham Hall. He also created the Simon Radley Kitchen Academy in 2013, to attract young chefs with talent to the North West and keep the talent in the area. Through the kitchens of The Chester Grosvenor, he created the ideal training ground, with alumni including Paul Hollywood, Aiden Byrne (Manchester House) and Adam Reid (Adam Reid at The French). He continues this at Oddfellows where he has recently launched the Oddfellows Academy for apprentices.

In his spare time, Jonathan is an accomplished sailor. In November 2015, he sailed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic on a 50-foot Beneteau raising over £5,000 for The Innholders Charitable Foundation.

He said: “To be awarded an honorary MBA has thrilled me and now sits as one of the pinnacles of my career. We have a wonderful University and it sits in one of the most unique cities in the world. Having spent much of my life in Chester, I have felt the greatest joy enjoying the progress the city has made over the last 30 years. The part I have played in promoting the city and region to the global tourism market has been both a delight and a privilege.”

At 2.30pm in Ceremony 8, Sir Algernon Heber-Percy will receive a Doctor of Letters, in recognition of his outstanding contribution in his role as Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire.

Sir Algernon Heber-Percy has been the Lord Lieutenant for Shropshire since 1996.

During his army career, he held the positions of Lieutenant Grenadier Guards from 1962-1966 (in England and in British Guiana South America); Hon Col 5 Bn Shropshire and Herefordshire Light Infantry 1998-1999 and Hon Col West Midlands Regiment 1999-2005.

Since leaving the Army, his career has primarily been taken up by Farming Estate activities at his home in North Shropshire and the administration of Hodnet Hall Gardens, which are regularly open to the public.

From these interests, he has become an executive member for the Council of the National Trust and Chairman of the Mercia region, which included Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire and one of the three Trustees of the National Garden Scheme, raising funds for charities through encouraging private owners to open their gardens for the charity.

He is interested in raising awareness and opportunities for those with disabilities within the county, and was for many years Chairman of The Lyneal Trust which organises canal holidays.

He is President of the Severn Hospice and has been a Fellow of Woodward Schools and a Governor of Shrewsbury School from 2004-2014.

His official appointments have included High Sheriff of Shropshire (1987), The Vice Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire in 1990 and from 1996 Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the county. This role has included the promotion of the county in many forms, but particularly in promoting voluntary service, the armed forces stationed within the county, the appointment of magistrates and the encouragement and attraction of new businesses.

He said: “I feel most honoured and delighted that the University of Chester has awarded me an honorary degree. My connections with Chester mean a great deal to my family and myself and the ceremony will give me a brief opportunity to say thank you to the University of Chester for its enthusiasm and commitment to its youthful new centre in Shrewsbury. The opportunity the University has given us is deeply appreciated.”

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