THE country's longest serving college governor was on familiar ground when he received his MBE yesterday.

Ken Handley received his "gong" in the suite at Bishop Auckland College named after him.

In his 49 years on the college governing body, Ken, now 83, has never missed a meeting.

He served both as chairman and vice-chairman for a total of 18 years and was an active member of several committees.

Away from the college, he chaired Bishop Auckland Trades Council for 15 years, and was on the adult employment committee and the youth employment advisory panel.

He was involved with a range of charities, notably cancer research.

He worked as the former engineering company Westtool, in St Helen Auckland, for 24 years and opened a newsagents shop in St Helen in 1970.

Principal Joanna Tait said the award was well deserved, adding: "The further education sector is an area of education that is often overlooked and it is the services of people such as Ken Handley which has made sure that it has developed and expanded over many years.

"He joins the ranks of only a very few number of people who have ever been given an award by the Queen for their services to further education."

The Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sir Paul Nicholson made the presentation.