Crewe Alexandra chairman John Bowler says he was "surprised, delighted and humbled" by the award of an MBE in the New Year Honours list.
The 77-year-old businessman has been chairman at Gresty Road since 1987, having first joined the board in 1980.
He has been honoured for services to football, but sees the award as extra recognition for the club's academy.
"With Dario Gradi, we've worked to produce an academy of which we're very proud," Bowler told BBC Radio Stoke.
"We set out to develop our academy, Dario came along and in time he became a director.
"He already had an MBE. If that's the recognition for what he's done in the sport and mine is for all the support we've given him to achieve that, then I'm surprised, delighted and humbled that someone feels I should deserve such an award."
Bowler learned of the award three weeks ago, but managed to keep it a secret.
"We got back from an away game and there was a letter in the letterbox to which I had to reply by return," he said. "I told my wife and that was it."
The award tops a happy Christmas for Crewe, who have picked up seven points from a possible nine during a three-game unbeaten run over the festive period, lifting them off the bottom of League One.