Asha Khemka (right) was married at the age of 15 in a remote village in India. She came to Britain 30 years ago with no knowledge of English. Now she is celebrating her remarkable career after winning the public sector category of the annual Asian Woman of Achievement awards.
The 56-year-old principal of West Nottinghamshire College was honoured in a ceremony at the Park Lane Hilton hotel in London last week - and thanked her husband of 41 years for supporting her rise to the top of her profession.
She said "I truly believe that if you have the courage, determination, ambition and drive to do something, then it certainly can be done. The journey I have made has been a challenging but hugely rewarding one.
"Needless to say, I could not have achieved my dreams without the love and support of my family.
"My husband is my biggest critic, my guide, and my children are my inspiration, as well as our students at West Nottinghamshire College. They are my driving force. They make me proud and make my job worthwhile."
In India, Asha had little opportunity for formal education and concentrated on being a full-time housewife and mother of three. When she came to Britain in 1978, she had no knowledge of English and little understanding of English culture.
After raising her children, she took a short business course, moved on to a business degree and became a college lecturer. Today, she is the principal of one of the largest colleges in England, serving 20,000 students.
John Bingham, chairman of the Association of Colleges, said: "Well deserved congratulations to Asha on this outstanding achievement.
"I am delighted that she is one of the new members of our board.
"She reflects the high quality leadership within our sector and is a credit to her college and the people of Nottinghamshire."
Asha has been an Ofsted inspector and a member of several advisory boards committed to the improvement of teaching and learning that have been instrumental in the development of standards for FE colleges.
Under Asha, West Nottinghamshire College, in Mansfield, has got planning permission and funding for a new pound;95m building, due to open in 2010.
Former winners of the achievement awards, sponsored by Lloyds TSB, include actress Meera Syal, BBC newsreader Mishal Husain and human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti.