A pioneering educationalist hailing from Swansea,Stan moved to the area as Principle of the brand new College of Further Education in Bridgnorth when it opened its doors in 1964. Stan was determined to involve the community in the College – and indeed the college in community life.
At its peak, over 1000 students were enrolled on both full time and part time courses, which were academic – complimenting schools by offering specialist A-levels such as psychology or sociology (this was the 60’s!) – and vocational: mining, electrical engineering, childcare to name a few. On top of this, there were evening courses available for adults; languages, mechanics, crafts – taken into the wider community of South Shropshire. Indeed for 30 years there was range of courses available on our doorsteps, bringing skills and employment to the town.
With typical modesty, Stan points out that all this was made possible by having a good team around him; Stan provided leadership with patience and fellowship until his retirement in 1987.
Sadly the college has closed its doors, but a lasting legacy which Stan Richards has left for the town: as an extension of the college activities, and a service to the local community, was the ‘Bridgnorth Theatre- Goers Club’ – which is still going strong. Stan served as secretary for 46 years; only stepping down in September last year.
The Bridgnorth Theatre Goers have 250 members and run 24 visits per year – often with two or three coach loads going on each trip – no mean feat to organise! It’s a testament to Stan’s vision that this club has provided so much enjoyment to so many for so long. Stan was awarded an MBE in 1998 for services to the community – an accolade which he treats with characteristic modesty: “I was a bit embarrassed really – the fact that people wanted to come it made it worthwhile.” Stan collected his MBE from Prince Charles together with his wife Shelia and sons Hugh and John.
So if your life in Bridgnorth hasn’t been touched in some way by Stan as Principle of the College, secretary of the Theatre Goers, or from echoes of a Welsh Male Voice Choir in Castle Hall organised by Stan and the Bridgnorth Welsh Society – it surely must have through his involvement with the Bridgnorth Rotary Club, of which he has been a member for 45 years.
The Rotary Movement was founded by Paul Harris of Chicago, the vision being to form a club that would “encourage fellowship amongst members” and find a friendly spirit that the founder had known growing up. Today in Bridgnorth, Rotarians come from all walks of the community, united in a common interest in helping others, both locally and internationally. Stan comments; “Like most things in Bridgnorth, we’re a happy and friendly lot – not terribly formal – new members are always welcome.” Stan was the first member of Bridgnorth Rotary to be awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship Award for long service to the Rotary Movement.
As our meeting drew to a close, Stan said; “Why me as a local hero? I know lots of people who do so much for others and are much more deserving”…well …yes there are many great ‘local heroes’ around – which is why we started this slot over two years ago to celebrate them – but as I write I am reminded of those words of the first Rotarian – the ‘friendly spirit’ – that’s what I found in Stan Richards.
To find our more about Rotary in Bridgnorth phone Ian Thomas on 01746 762227.
Serious enquiries about Theatre Goers Club call Ealona Thorpe on 01746 762678.