Internet pioneer Rob Barrow MBE DL has been honoured by the university where he took a degree in computer science more than 50 years ago.
Rob, a trustee of East Cheshire Hospice, has been made an Honorary Doctor of Technology.
The award, which recognises his inspiring role in the development of internet technology, comes after he survived a major cancer scare.
Rob, from Macclesfield, said: “The award from Staffordshire University came as a total surprise and I’m hugely grateful and humbled. It’s a great honour for anyone to be recognised in this way.”
Rob founded software company SurfControl in the late 1980s and it was ahead of even Microsoft and Apple in the early days of internet technology.
The company was headquartered in California for easy access to the rapidly-emerging US online computer market and employed more than 600 staff worldwide, and was valued at more than £1bn on the London stock market, its cutting-edge software allowing major corporations to regulate staff access online.
Its operations included a research and development facility in Congleton which employed graduates from local universities including the one he had himself attended.
Rob’s computing career began at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, which later became Staffordshire University, in 1968 after studying Mathematics at Warwick University.
He spent his third year in industry at the British Railways Board where he was offered a job and where he cut his teeth on technology. He joined computer giant ICL before launching his own company.
Rob retired at 53 in 2003 to focus on philanthropy, taking up several charitable roles including chair of the Hospice’s board of directors. He also became vice president of Cheshire Community Foundation and President of Congleton4Congleton.
Karyn Johnston, Chief Executive of East Cheshire Hospice, said: “Rob’s forward view has modernised how ECH operates, and other charities are looking to emulate what he started at our Hospice. We are pleased his contribution to technological innovation has been recognised with this prestigious doctorate and delighted that he continues to add value to our Board of Directors.”
He was awarded an MBE for services to charity in 2019, having become a Deputy Lieutenant of Cheshire in 2015. He is also a Patron of the National Trust.
Rob was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in 2017 and, following major surgery, learned it had spread to his liver and lungs and was given a prognosis of just one year. His commitment to helping others and being at the leading-edge in all aspects of his life meant that Rob volunteered to be part of an immunotherapy clinical trial, which included a six-month inpatient stay at The Christie fighting the side-effects of the pioneering treatment.
In January 2019, he was told the cancer had disappeared.
Rob should have received his honorary doctorate in 2020 but the pandemic meant the ceremony was postponed until this year when he will hopefully finally don his well-deserved cap and gown.
Rob Barrow with wife Pam, daughter Fiona Hobbs and grandson Kit Hobbs when he received the MBE at Buckingham Palace in 2019.