John Wynne Owen, CMG, MBE
Former Governor of the Cayman Islands
John Wynne Owen is a retired British diplomat and former Governor of the Cayman Islands.
Early life and education
Born in South Wales, John Wynne Owen attended Gowerton Grammar School. John left school at 16 and joined the civil service. He was one of the 2,500 who took the foreign service exam that year, and one one of only 12 to be recruted. Thus began his career as a civil servant. National Service interrupted this career, as it did for so many others in the late 1950s. John joined the Royal Signals but his potential leadership ability was recognised and, after attending Mons Officer Cadet School, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, with Michael Heseltine as Officer Cadet Parade Commander.
After completing his period of National Service, John Wynne Owen returned to the Foreign Office with postings in Indonesia, Vietnam, France and El Salvador. But John was not content to simply remain a civil servant. In 1967 he left the Diplomatic Service for a short period in industry, a step which is unusual today and perhaps even more so then, but one which nevertheless reflects the balance in his professional life between industry and public service. He rejoined the Diplomatic Service in 1970 with postings in Iran, Brazil, China and London.
In 1985 he once again left the Diplomatic Service for industry, and was Chairman and Managing Director of a group of companies. He returned to the Foreign Office in 1989 and in 1992 was appointed British Consul General in Boston. It was perhaps his experience of industry which led him to realise the significance of the developing links between business and universities in this corner of the United States. In particular a disproportionate number of successful start-up businesses had been spun out of the two nearby Ivy League powerhouses of Harvard and MIT. This link between academia and industry – what we now refer to in the UK as third mission activities – was championed by John on his return to Wales. In particular he proved influential in persuading the Welsh Development Agency to explore these and other innovative business concepts emerging at that time in the United States and elsewhere.
In 1995, John Wynne Owen was appointed the Governor of the Cayman Islands. He served as Governor from 16 October 1995 to 5 May 1999.
On his retirement in 1999, John Wynne Owen continued to pursue a variety of business, civic and charitable concerns.
He is a Freeman of the City of London, a past Master of the Worshipful Company of Loriners and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management.
Honours and awards
His distinguished career in business and in public service led to the award of an MBE in 1979 and a CMG in 1998.