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Sir Michael Bear

Honorary Doctor of Sciences


The son of a South African geologist, Michael Bear was born in Nairobi and brought up in Cyprus. He studied civil engineering in Johannesburg during the apartheid era, where he was arrested for teaching maths and science to young black students, and later did an MBA at Cranfield University.

He spent the early part of his career working on airport design and construction projects in South Africa and Northern Ireland, developing infrastructure and renewable energy initiatives in China, Nigeria and Cameroon and developing property in Europe. In 1991 he returned to his former employer, Balfour Beatty, as managing director of property with a portfolio that included masterminding the transformation of Spitalfields.

That project whetted his appetite for community involvement in regeneration and in 1993 he was appointed chairman of the Tower Hamlets City Challenge project. His work in Tower Hamlets helped him build close links with the ethnically diverse local community and in 2003 he stood as common councilman for the predominantly Bangladeshi Portsoken ward. In 2006, he became director of regeneration at Hammerson.

He was subsequently elected Alderman of the ward and in 2007-2008, served as Sheriff of the City of London. In 2010, he became Lord Mayor – the first with a construction background for over 20 years. During his tenure, Occupy protestors set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, an event that made him even more determined to change perceptions of the City. "We need to show people that the City is embracing innovation," he says, "and that it has a huge part to play in bringing us out of recession."

His year as Lord Mayor also gave Michael an opportunity to pursue his charitable work, including providing 20 bursaries for inner-city children to study in higher education. Now, voluntary work remains a priority. He is President of Coram and a director of the Spitalfields Market Community Trust. He is a governor of the new Hackney Academy, The Sir John Cass Primary School in Aldgate and Christ's Hospital and a former governor at LSBU. He is also a keen supporter of the livery movement. At the start of this year, Michael Bear was knighted for his services to charity, to regeneration and to the City of London.

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