By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, @WTelfordHerald

PLPC20160415A-083_CSTANDING OVATION: Dr Suzanne Sparrow with son Raymond, behind, at The Herald Business Awards

WHEN 91-year-old Dr Suzanne Sparrow was announced as winner of the Lifetime Achievement honour at the 2016 Herald Business Awards she received a standing ovation – and then revealed how she has launched a multi million-pound business after serving in World War Two.

Dr Sparrow didn’t know she had won the award, the only one for which there was no shortlist.

But she was a popular choice and delighted the 600 attendees, in the sumptuously attired Plymouth Pavilions, with a heartfelt speech, delivered off the cuff.

 “Thank you so much for selecting me,” she said. “On behalf of everyone here tonight: what a wonderful event. The place looks so glamorous. The last time I was here I was dancing.”

And Dr Sparrow then revealed a connection she had with awards presenter Charleine Wain, famed for her appearance on TV’s The Apprentice.

Both, it emerged, had been teenaged recruits in the Royal Navy.

But in Dr Sparrow’s case it was during World War Two.

“I’m a Plymothian, I went to school here and in 1942, at the age of 17, I joined the Royal Navy.

“I was Wren (Women’s Royal Naval Service) boat crew until 1945.

“Then I went to secretarial school and worked in a marine research establishment – where I married the boss.”

She added: “Thank you to The Herald for all their efforts.”

And she quipped: “The Herald is a superb newspaper, it’s full of gossip, sports, special events, even some news.”

Dr Sparrow also thanked PR firm Dorcas Media, and its founder Kevin Kelway, before revealing a little of her life story.


Dr Sparrow started The Suzanne Sparrow Plymouth Language School in 1978, bringing over European students, placing them with host families and teaching them English in one of the city’s first language schools.

She still runs the multi-million pound business, and its team of about 30 staff, today.

“It was the first professional language school in Plymouth and is today known world wide, from Brazil to Japan,” she said.

“We have injected about £40million into the city’s economy.

“And our latest venture is a words and music festival.”

Dr Sparrow’s business has partnered with Plymouth University to create the Words and Music Festival 2016.

And because it is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the festival, launching on April 22, will be themed around the Bard of Avon.

Dr Sparrow has also been involved for many years with the what is now known as Devon Chamber of Commerce, when it was simply Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.

The Herald’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the businessman or woman who has made a considerable, profitable and lasting contribution to Plymouth business over a period of at least 20 years.


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