At Buckingham Palace for Dave’s investiture

The whole process of receiving an OBE is quite quiet and, some would say, mysterious. It turned out to be an amazing day with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, performing his first investiture on the Queen’s behalf.

David Martin and Prince William

Two weeks ago Dave and I attended (along with two very close friends) an investiture at Buckingham Palace. Yes, THE Buckingham Palace in the heart of London. We were there for the conferring of various levels of honors on 88 individuals for a variety of services to the United Kingdom. The Order of the British Empire (known as OBE) was established in 1917. More than 20 such investitures occur in any given year.

Service and success in education

Dave’s award was for services to education, and he is now an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Allowing for some level of interpretation and elaboration (because there is no elaboration on the part of the government), this means for the raging success first for the SMART Board interactive whiteboard and second for the additional elements that SMART wrapped around the product. About 90% of UK classrooms have an interactive whiteboard, and a significant majority of those come from SMART.

A mysterious process

The whole process of receiving an OBE is quite quiet and, some would say, mysterious. Dave’s first knowledge of the award came at the end of 2012 when he received a phone call asking if he were granted an award would he accept. You can imagine a certain level of skepticism about the legitimacy of such a call, but after Dave believed that it was indeed real, he accepted without hesitation.

After confirming with the Canadian government the acceptability of conferring the honor, Dave’s award was announced on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June. Dave had the opportunity to select from a number of dates and chose October 17. As it turns out, that was an historic date with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, performing his first investiture on the Queen’s behalf.

Getting to the palace on time

All of the investees were entitled to bring three guests. Beyond me, Dave selected Nancy Macnab, Byye’s CFO and SMART’s first CFO, and Suzan Olsen, a long-time friend and the person who introduced us. We were invited to the palace for 10:00 a.m. to allow us a comfortable amount of time to get fully in place before the formal event started at 11:00 a.m.

Nancy Knowlton and David Martin at Buckingham Palace

Meeting the Duke of Cambridge

Dave was taken to a prep room for the investees to be instructed on how the event was to be conducted and how they were to engage with the Duke. We went to the ballroom where we were treated to some music while we awaited the formal event. Right on schedule the Duke and his guard entered the ballroom, and aside from saying “please be seated,” the Duke reserved all of his comments for the honorees who entered one at a time for their personal recognition from the Duke.


It was clear in watching each of the presentations that the Duke was both well supported (an aide was providing whispered comments before the Duke greeted each recipient) and had prepared for the event. So much has been written about his ease of interacting with people, and we saw this time and again as he was animated and engaging with a broad cross section of people.

The view from inside Buckingham Palace

The event concluded just as it started – precisely and definitively. The gentle blinking of the lights in the ballroom confirmed our need to exit. We spent a little time outside the main entrance to the palace taking a few pictures inside the quadrangle that is hidden from the sight of tourists. We, particularly Dave, savored the walk out in front of the always-present tourists as we left the inner courtyard. After one last look at Buckingham Palace from outside the gates, we moved along to our celebratory lunch with family, friends and business colleagues.

Quite the experience.

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Nancy Knowlton
Nancy Knowlton is co-founder and CEO of Nureva Inc. and previously the co-founder and CEO of SMART Technologies. She writes about education, entrepreneurship, business management, technology, innovation and other passions.