Les Halpin

University honours ‘inspirational’ alumnus

Today the University welcomed back one of its most successful and inspiring graduates, Les Halpin, to receive an honorary degree.

Les Halpin was born in London and grew up in Essex where he attended the local grammar school. He accepted a place to study Mathematical Statistics and Operational Research at the University of Exeter in 1976 graduating with a First three years later. He was the first member of his family to go to university. His experience at Exeter played an enormous role in shaping his life, not least in meeting his future wife, Claire, who was studying Biological Sciences.

Les began his career working for Barclays Bank. He then went on to work for British Gas and Lloyds Bank International, where he was responsible for the analysis of major mining projects. He then spent 23 years with Record Treasury Management, offering currency investment and hedging services to pension funds. Les retired as director of Record after it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2007. He then joined Lightfoot Solutions in April 2007, a company which utilises statistical analysis to improve organisational performance. He became the company Chairman in January 2009

Today, Les is an active investor in a number of start-up companies .He relishes the intellectual challenge of transforming performance and helping organisations to succeed. He is also well known for his philanthropy.

Les and his wife have also donated over half a million pounds to create the Halpin PhD Scholarship Programme at the University of Exeter. In addition to helping students from developing countries realise their dreams, they are tackling one of the world’s most pressing challenges – food security. Their work focuses on tackling the ravages caused by rice blast, a plant disease that each year kills enough rice to feed 60 million people.

Les has also been a generous supporter of the Business School.  He has invested his time as a member of the School’s Advisory Board and his funds as one of the most significant donors to its impressive new building.

The School’s new cafe and social learning space, was named La Touche last month in recognition of the Halpins’ remarkable support.

La Touche is Les’s original family name. In the late 19th Century, his great grandfather, Thomas Henry Digges La Touche joined the Geological Survey of India. Whilst stationed in Burma he fathered a son, William Aloysius, with a local woman. Following his birth, William was placed in a Burmese Catholic orphanage where he adopted the name Halpin.

William Halpin became Deputy Headmaster of the Government English High School in Maymyo, Burma, and had four children; Gerry, Joan, Michael and Peter. Following the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942, Gerry and his family trekked out of Burma to India. On this terrible journey many thousands of men, women and children died, including Gerry’s father, mother, grandmother and aunt. But Gerry managed to save his three younger siblings. He went on to live a full life, marrying Colleen, with whom he had a son, called Les.

Commenting on what makes him tick, Les said “My motivation is to help others achieve their dreams, find their voice and make an impact on the world. I call it ‘changing the world in bite sized chunks’”.

Date: 20 July 2011

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