09 August 2011

Sheffield brewer receives first ever Distinguished Alumni Award

L-R Rosemary Boucher, Professor Keith Burnett and Dave Wickett

University of Sheffield alumnus and much loved local businessman Dave Wickett has received the first ever Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award.

Originally from London, Dave Wickett graduated with a Masters in Economics from the University of Sheffield in 1976. He started his career as an Economics Lecturer at Sheffield Polytechnic and was one of the first people to recognise the key importance of work placements for students. He set up business degrees at 47 universities across the country and became Chairman of the Business Studies Placement Scheme.

In the process of setting up a staff club at Sheffield Polytechnic, he developed a professional interest in the brewing industry and a passion for real ale. He decided that he would like to own a pub and in 1981 he purchased The Fat Cat pub in Kelham Island.

Miles Stevenson, Director of Development at the University, who has known Dave for many years, commented: “Dave’s vision of a pub was a place for good company, great hand-pumped beers and excellent home-cooked food including vegetarian and vegan dishes. The Fat Cat was an immediate success.”

Whilst running the pub, Dave continued in his job as a lecturer at Sheffield Polytechnic and introduced an exchange programme at The Rochester Institute of Technology, a university in Upper New York State, which allowed its students to study at Sheffield. This led ultimately to Dave opening The Old Toad, an English pub in New York which was run by British students on their exchange year. During this time he was also on the Economics Committee of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

The Fat Cat Pub

During his time in America, Dave was inspired by the concept of the sports bar, which is popular in New York, and decided to open Champs Sports Diner on Ecclesall Road - now one of the most popular venues in Sheffield. Soon after he decided to open his own brewery in Sheffield and in 1990 he left Sheffield Polytechnic and opened the Kelham Island Brewery - the first new brewery to open in Sheffield in a hundred years. His first beer, Celebration, went on sale that year.

During the 1990s the large breweries in Sheffield closed and Kelham Island became the biggest in the city. In 1999 Dave opened a new brewery with increased capacity, alongside the old one, to cope with increased demand. In August 2004 Kelham Island’s beer Pale Rider was named as Champion Beer of Great Britain at the Great British Beer Festival in Olympia, beating 50 finalists.

The brewery’s special limited editions include a Centenary Ale which was mashed by Professor Boucher at Kelham Island to celebrate the University’s centenary in 2005 - and most recently a special University of Sheffield Ale, brewed for His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited the University with Her Royal Highness the Queen in November 2010.

Receiving the award, Dave Wickett commented: "It really is the award that I treasure most. I truly love working with the University of Sheffield, but never in my wildest dreams imagined I would ever be honoured like this."

The University of Sheffield Kelham Island Beer Gift Pack

Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “Dave Wickett is widely admired and respected within the Sheffield community and beyond. We are deeply grateful for all that Dave has done for the University, as a member of the University’s Court and an active supporter of the Alumni Office. Dave’s career has neatly mirrored the renaissance that has taken place in Sheffield over the last 20 years. He is an entrepreneur with boundless energy, courtesy and optimism. We are immensely proud that he is one of our alumni and we are delighted to present to him the Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award.”

Professor Robert Boucher, known as Bob to many in the University and city, was the University’s Vice-Chancellor from 2001 to 2007. He took great interest in alumni relations, appreciating the important contribution that alumni continue to play in the life of a University. In 2002 he established an office to strengthen communication and engagement with alumni that has continued to grow ever since.

The University has decided to honour Professor Boucher’s memory with the creation of a special award - the Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award. This new award aims to recognise alumni who have made outstanding contributions to business and community life. It gives the University the opportunity to acknowledge their achievements and success.

The University of Sheffield is now selling a limited edition “University of Sheffield Kelham Island Gift Pack”. The pack includes two bottles of beer and a limited edition glass. They are priced at £9.99 and the proceeds are going to support student clubs and societies at the University of Sheffield. For more information or to purchase the beer visit http://www.shef.ac.uk/union/outlets-services/our-sheffield/

For more information about the Distinguished Alumni Award and how to nominate someone for 2012 follow the link below: