When school governor Barrie Martin received a letter telling him he had been awarded an MBE, he initially thought someone was playing a joke on him.
But after reading it more closely, the Lovatt Close, Edgware, resident realised it was real - and felt extremely flattered.
He became the chairman of governors at Queen Elizabeth Boys’ School in 1987 - and 26 years on he is still determined to do the parents and staff proud.
The 79-year-old spent his early teenage years in and out of hospital with a kidney problem and took on the role as he wanted to ensure no child missed out education.
He said: “I’ve always thought education is such a vital part of growing up. It’s been most satisfying to be a part of the team here.
“Missing out on a huge chunk of my schooling as a child made me really appreciate how important learning and going to school is. I had to catch up and work hard to get to where I am today.
“It taught me the value of education and I am keen to do all I can to help others - particularly people from less privileged backgrounds.”
Mr Martin's two grown-up sons, Piers and Giles, both attended the school, in Queens Road, Barnet, and he said he was inspired by its “friendly and dedicated” teaching staff.
From 1984 to 1990, he was also a governor at St Paul’s Primary School, in The Ridgeway, Mill Hill.
After recovering from his kidney problem, Mr Martin left school at 16 and at the age of 24 qualified as a chartered surveyor.
He sold his practice in Edgware last spring - but still works there part-time as a consultant.
One of his proudest moments was in 2006, when the Martin Swimming Pool, named in tribute to him, opened at the school.
He added: “The award came very out of the blue - at first I wasn’t sure it was real. I thought it was a joke. But I’m extremley flattered, it feels wonderful."
Headteacher Neil Enright, said: “He is an asset to QE in so many ways, combining a tireless work ethic with tremendous focus and an utterly reliable good nature.”