Today’s Willett of the Day is Allan Willett, who founded Willett International, an electronic coding and labelling system manufacturer that I’ve been running across for years while ego-Googling. I was pleased to discover this biography of him:
Allan Willett was born in India in 1936. His father was a tea planter and a farmer in the Isle of Thanet, East Kent where he spent his early years. His Father’s family had been farmers in that area for many generations and his Mother’s family were artists and had connections with the Military and Kent cricket.
Educated at Eastbourne College he was commissioned during his National Service (1955-1957) in the Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment, and seconded to the King’s African Rifles in Kenya during the Mau Mau emergency. He played rugby for the Kent schoolboys and as a young man worked his way around the world.
In 1962 he started his own business importing packaging and plastics machinery and this evolved into Willett International Limited which became a world leader in electronic coding and labelling systems with subsidiaries in 30 countries and the winner of two Queen’s Award for Export. The company was successfully sold in January 2003 to the main competitor.
In January 2004 Allan created his charitable Foundation with an initial gift of £2m and an undertaking that his estate would contribute a further £8m at the time of his death. In the meantime the Foundation distributes approximately £300k per year and the £2m figure is supplemented by Allan annually to achieve this objective. The Foundation’s particular beneficiaries are persons or organisations living, working or studying in the County of Kent, promoting the efficiency of the armed forces of Great Britain and other deserving causes outside the County.
During his public sector work, he was the Founding Chairman of the Industrial Development Board for London and the South East, a Director of Locate in Kent, the East Kent Enterprise Agency and Chairman of the East Kent Initiative and Forum. In 1998 the government asked him to establish their Regional Development Agency for the South East of England (SEEDA) and he was the Founding Chairman until he stepped down in December 2002.
Allan was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 1997 and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Kent in January 2002. He is a Knight of Justice in the Order of St. John. He was conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law at The University of Kent at Canterbury in July 2002, an Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws of the University of Greenwich in July 2003 and an Honorary Fellowship at Canterbury Christchurch College in May 2003. He is Chairman of the Canterbury Cathedral Trust Fund, the Honorary Colonel of the 3rd Battalion Princess Of Wales’s Royal Regiment and an Ambassador for Kent.
In July 2006 he was presented with the Honorary Freedom of the City of Canterbury. He lives with his wife Anne in Chilham near Canterbury, Kent.