Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton's commendation video transcript

Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton

PROFESSOR WARREN MANNING: Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Richard is a senior Royal Air Force officer and engineer serving as Deputy Commander for Capability and People at the Royal Air Force's Headquarters at RAF High Wycombe. He was raised in Derbyshire and educated at Hatton Comprehensive School in South Derbyshire.

He received an RAF Sixth Form Scholarship while completing his A level studies and went on to join the Royal Air Force as a University Cadet. He studied engineering at Clare College Cambridge, graduating with first class honours before embarking on an illustrious career.

Richard served as an engineer officer on Nimrod, Tornado F3 aircraft and subsequently on Harrier jets. He saw active service in Italy during the Kosovo War and in 2003 was promoted to Wing Commander while he was attending the joint Services Advance Command and Staff Course. He finished top of his class and then completed several staff appointments before being appointed in 2009 as the first engineer officer to be the Station Commander and Logistics Force Commander at RAF Wittering.

Richard was promoted to Air Commodore in 2011 and became Head of Finance and Military Capability (Air) before setting up and leading the Future Combat Air System Program in 2014. In 2015, he was the first non-pilot to be appointed as the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, during which time he oversaw the development of the RAF's strategy, international relations and planning for the RAF Centenary celebrations.

He became Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Capability and Force Design) in 2017. He held this role for a little under two years before being promoted again, this time to Air Marshal and appointed as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Military Capability. He was appointed to his current role in May 2022. 

Richard is now responsible for delivering the RAF Strategy through people, equipment, digital, training, infrastructure and support to ensure the Service can deliver the air and space power the nation needs.

He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 2022 Queen's Birthday Honours. 

Richard is married to Caitlin, who is celebrating here with him today, along with his father Michael, and mother Mary.

Chancellor, in recognition of his outstanding career as an aerospace engineer and his achievement in public life, we are delighted to award Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.

AIR MARSHAL SIR RICHARD KNIGHTON: Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, honoured guests, and most importantly, graduands.

Wow, that was a lot of clapping! You're two-thirds of the way through I hear. I'm truly honoured to be here today and to have been recognised by this award. I'm immensely proud, as a boy, as you've heard, from Hatton Secondary School, brought up about 10 miles away from here, and a lifelong Derby County fan, to be stood here today at Pride Park.

If you're thinking of Googling my old school, don't bother. It closed over 30 years ago and is now in fact a housing estate. But like my mum and dad who are here today, that school helped put me on the right path.

As you've heard, I joined the Royal Air Force when I was really still at school. If I'm honest I can't quite remember the moment when I decided I wanted to be an engineer or when I decided I wanted to join the RAF. It was probably somewhere in my mid-teens. I'm not sure I had a long-term plan, perhaps like many of you here today. I certainly didn't expect to be stood here 30 plus years later.

I think I joined the Royal Air Force partly because of a sense of adventure. I did have a sense of service and I wanted to serve my country, but I was also excited about the prospect of working with technology doing cool and interesting things and maybe wearing a little bit of bling.

And while my career has given me all of those things what I've learned about more than anything else and enjoyed more than anything else is leading people. I've learned that it is only through others that we can truly make a difference.

And while you might not think of yourself as leaders, all of us are leaders in some way. We have a choice on every occasion to leave a positive impression and make a difference to others. 

Somebody told me once that how you make another person feel will define what they think of you and what they will do for you. The world today faces many challenges from climate change to instability in Europe and suffering around the world.

To coin a phrase, your country needs you. The world needs you, the scientists, and engineers, we need your skills, your knowledge, your energy, and your leadership to make the world a better and safer place.

If you remember only one thing from what I've said today, remember the power you have to leave a positive impression. congratulations to you all and good luck.

Thank you.

Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton's commendation video

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