Bradford University says it will be “eternally grateful” that Sir Trevor Holdsworth, who has died, chose a career in business rather than becoming a professional musician.

Sir Trevor, who was born in Bradford in 1927, enjoyed a distinguished business career before putting his knowledge to good use as chancellor of the university between 1992 and 1997.

The former Hanson Grammar School pupil, who died last week at 83 after a short illness, made several influential contributions to British industry.

Born into a working class family with links to the textile industry, he made his name as a modernising chairman of engineering conglomerate GKN in the 1970s and 1980s.

He went on to oversee the privatisation of energy group National Power, then to serve as president of the Confederation of British Industry.

Sir Trevor became chairman of a number of other companies, including the Bradford-based Allied Colloids international chemical business.

But it could all have been different if Sir Trevor had decided to pursue a career in music after showing promise as a pianist.

He played with the Royal Philharmonic in the Royal Festival Hall, the European Community Chamber Orchestra, and in Bradford Cathedral with the pianist Philip Dyson and on another occasion with the violinist Tasmin Little. Professor Mark Cleary, vice-chancellor of the University of Bradford, said: “Sir Trevor Holdsworth was installed as chancellor of the University of Bradford on 24 March 1992 and stepped down in 1997.

“Bradford-born, Sir Trevor was a distinguished businessman who cherished his local roots. He believed that invention and innovation were at the heart of wealth creation and economic prosperity, and was proud of the University’s reputation for Making Knowledge Work.

“He was a firm believer in the importance of lifelong learning. Knighted in 1982, Sir Trevor was a talented pianist, and would probably have risen to international fame in this area had he not chosen a business career.

“The University of Bradford will be eternally grateful that he chose the latter.”