Alongside hundreds of students, Paul Wells, from family brewers Charles Wells, was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration degree at a graduation ceremony at Bedford Corn Exchange.
The brewery, founded in Bedford in 1876, is now the UK’s largest independent brewer following its merger with London brewery Young’s.
The graduation ceremony was for De Montfort University students who completed their degrees earlier this year. De Montfort University’s Bedford campus merged with the University of Luton in August to become the University of Bedfordshire.
Professor Kate Jacques, pro-vice chancellor and dean of the Bedford Faculty of Education and Contemporary Studies, said: "Paul Wells’ contribution to the Bedford community, his strong ethical approach to the brewery industry and his enterprise and commitment makes him an ideal candidate for an award."
Under Mr Wells’ leadership, Charles Wells has seen sales of traditional beers grow year on year and the brewery has introduced an international line.
Mr Wells, who is chairman of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain and a member of the Council of British Beers and Pubs Association, has placed great importance on training and development. The brewery has built a training centre on site at Havelock Road to educate staff on the social responsibility of the production and sale of alcohol.
Charles Wells supports the Bedford Development Agency in developing business in the area and also supports the development of future business men and women by employing business studies students at the university in their placement year. It also sponsors Bedford Blues Rugby Club, the Eagle Aid scheme and supporting community organsations such as the Afro-Caribbean Saturday School and Bedford Samaritans.
Also receiving honorary awards were former Olympic swimming coach and ex-principal lecturer at the university Helen Elkington; David Bell, former head of Ofsted and now Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education and Skills, and the Reverend John Pedlar, of Bedford’s St Paul’s Church.