Retailer who backs scientific initiatives is honoured by University of Leicester

A successful Leicestershire retailer who set up a trust to fund scientific initiatives has been honoured by the University of Leicester.

Sir Will Adderley is Deputy Chairman at his family business, the homeware retailer Dunelm, but is probably lesser known as the joint founder of the Stoneygate Trust. Since its formation in 2007, the trust has funded over 500 projects in Leicestershire, Rutland and beyond, benefiting organisations such as the LOROS hospice charity.

The Stoneygate Trust has a long history of funding support for the University of Leicester, most recently backing the University’s new £10 million Stoneygate Centre for Excellence in Empathic Healthcare, within the College of Life Sciences at the University.  

Today (Friday 19 January), the University of Leicester formally recognised Sir Will’s achievements, by awarding him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws during a graduation ceremony, held at De Montfort Hall.

After accepting his doctorate, Sir Will gave a speech to the hundreds of new Leicester graduates present at the ceremony.

He said: “Leicester is where I have lived since I was five years old. It is where I have worked my whole career, it is where I got married, and it’s where our three children were born. 

“To be asked if I would accept an honorary degree from the University of Leicester was hugely humbling. It will be another reason as to why Leicester is such a big part of my life.”

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “Sir Will is a real Citizen of Change. It would be very easy for any successful businessman to take a back seat and enjoy the fruits of their labour, but Sir Will, and his wife Lady Nadine, decided to take on a huge responsibility and found The Stoneygate Trust.

“The Trust has proved to be a real lifeline for charities and organisations in need, and thanks to its funding of our Stoneygate Centre for Excellence in Empathic Healthcare, we our able to put empathy at the heart of training healthcare professionals.

“I know I speak for the whole community of Leicester when I say without Sir Will, the city would be a much poorer place.”

Sir Will joined the family business in 1992 after gaining a degree in Industrial Economics from Nottingham University. Dunelm is the UK’s leading homeware retailer headquartered in Syston, Leicester, with close to 180 stores and 11,000 employees. In 1996, Sir Will took over the day-to-day running of the Dunelm Group from his father Bill who along with his wife (and Will’s mother) Jean, founded Dunelm as a stall in Leicester Market in 1979.  Prior to becoming deputy chairman, Sir Will was the chief executive of the company. During this time, he oversaw the group’s flotation onto the London Stock Exchange in 2006. 

Sir Will lives in Rutland with his wife, Lady Nadine Adderley, and their three children. Together, Sir Will and Lady Nadine set up the Stoneygate Trust (formally the Leicester Foundation) in 2007. 

Sir Will was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2021 for services to charity.