Arthur France MBE founded the Leeds West Indian Carnival in 1967 and remains a driving force as chairman of the annual event, which unites communities and contributes around £10m to the area’s economy.
The University of Leeds recognised his tireless dedication to community work at a graduation ceremony today.
The grandfather-of-seven, of Chapeltown, who was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis and moved to Leeds in 1957, donned a cap and gown to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the university.
He said: “I dreamed of Leeds West Indian Carnival as a cure for my homesickness and to bring people together. So when I made Leeds my home 58 years ago, my wildest dreams could not have imagined receiving an honorary degree from such a respected university.
“Being surrounded by the graduating scholars took me back to 1967 when students from Trinidad and Jamaica studying at the university helped to start Europe’s first Caribbean carnival here in Leeds.
“Receiving this remarkable honour was an incredibly touching and humbling experience for me and I could not be prouder.”
A University of Leeds spokeswoman said: “Arthur France has been a generous, compassionate and energetic force for good in this city. He has guided and championed the carnival since 1967, building a major event that contributes a huge amount to the local economy, bringing communities together and hugely enriching our cultural lives.” More than 100,00 revellers are expected to take to the city’s streets for the 48th annual Leeds West Indian Carnival on August 31. Go to www.leedscarnival.co.uk