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Newsmaker: Roger Owen Cranville / British-born business executive earns OBE

Monday, January 06, 2003

By Jan Ackerman, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Roger Owen Cranville will never forget the surprise telephone call.

Roger Owen Cranville, with his American and British flags. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette)

On the other end of the phone line, on a recent November day, was Sir Thomas Harris, the British counsel general in New York City.

Harris had news for Cranville, a British-born man who lives in Kilbuck and spends his time building bridges between Pittsburgh and Great Britain and other European countries.

Cranville, 52, who has dual citizenship, learned that he might be on a list of people to be dubbed by Queen Elizabeth II to receive an order of chivalry -- the Order of the British Empire -- for his "services to British commercial interests in the United States."

Cranville had to keep it a secret. The formal announcement would come on New Year's Day.


Name: Roger Owen Cranville

Date of birth: March 16, 1950

Place of birth: Bishops Stortford, England

In the news: On New Year's Day, Queen Elizabeth II named Cranville to the Order of the British Empire, called OBE, for "services to British commercial interests in the [United States]."

Quote: "The OBE award is quite a personal award, but it brings recognition to what we are trying to do as a region, to become a much more global region and to build relationships overseas."

Education: Bachelor's degree in engineering, 1971, Letchworth Technical College, England.

Family: Wife, Clair; and daughters, Hannah, 13, and Laura, 12.


"I was utterly amazed," said Cranville, who has lived in Pittsburgh since 1991. He is a senior vice president of international business development for Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and executive director of the British-American Business Council, Pittsburgh Region Inc.

In both roles, he is developing an international strategy for Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, promoting the region overseas and working to attract technology and manufacturing investments.

"Roger has been one of the premier forces of promoting internationalism of this region, which is something this region needs to do," said Schuyler Foerster, president of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. "And what makes this award so sweet is that he is not an out-front, in-the-limelight guy. He bends over backwards to give others credit."

Steve Atkins, press adviser for the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., could not find any records of any other person from Western Pennsylvania ever receiving the Order of the British Empire, which is given annually on New Year's Day and the queen's birthday.

Cranville had no idea that his name was being considered for such an honor.

He was one of 114 people named in the queen's announcement of the winners, a diverse group including actress Brenda Blethyn, cricket commentator Henry Blofeld and various people from medicine, education, business, industry and government services.

The queen also announced other major appointments, including the knighting of several scientists and educators.

King George V created the Order of the British Empire in 1917 during World War I to recognize meritorious and notable civilian endeavors.

The awards are given nationally and internationally for exceptional achievements of service.

It's all very British.

"You can't apply for it and usually most of the process is through by the time that you hear that you are up for consideration," Cranville said.

Unlike knighthood, the Order of the British Empire doesn't bring a title, but recipients can use the letters OBE behind their names, just like someone with a doctorate can use Ph.D.

"I will use the letters OBE behind my name," Cranville said.

The presentation of the order of chivalry has all the pageantry the British can muster, including a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London sometime this summer where either Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles will distribute the orders and sash badges with medallions of Britannica, encircled by the motto: "For God and the Empire."

Cranville said it will be a day for "morning clothes" -- top hat and tails -- and an exciting time for his Pittsburgh-born wife, Clair, and their two daughters, Hannah, 13 and Laura, 12.

In addition to his job at the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Cranville has served since 2000 as executive director of the British-American Business Council in the region. Under his leadership, the business council is one of the fastest growing chapters in the United States and will host the 2003 British-American Business Council Autumn Trans-Atlantic Business Conference.

"He works very hard for this region," said Gail Shrott, executive director of the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors.

Her organization has worked with Cranville to prepare for visits from several high-level delegations, including Keidanren, a leading Japanese business organization.

Cranville was born, raised and educated in England, where he received an engineering degree in 1971 from Letchworth Technical College. He then spent 13 years as a project manager for International Computers Ltd., now part of Fujitsu, a global information technology company. In 1984, he joined Acorn Computer Ltd. in Cambridge, England.

He relocated his family to Pittsburgh in 1992 to be closer to his wife's family. Initially, he worked for what now is called Southwest Pennsylvania Corp. as manager for international export development. From 1996 to 2000, he worked in state government as deputy secretary for international business development.

He joined the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance in 2000 and has worked to develop partnerships that will bring new jobs to the region. He said the initiatives have attracted several overseas companies to the region, including Amtech Computer Systems, a British software company, to Coraopolis.

Cranville co-chaired the Pittsburgh Region International Transition Team and has directed worldwide investment missions for business leaders and elected officials, including Mayor Tom Murphy and county Chief Executive Jim Roddey.

Jan Ackerman can be reached at jackerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.

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