Image of the Liverpool Cathedral

Deborah Shackleton CBE

Oration

Presented by: Sir Bert Massie

Honourable Chancellor, I present Deborah Shackleton for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Deborah Shackleton embodies the essence of a hard working professional who has not only progressed through a successful career in the housing sector to Chief Executive level but has also undertaken a series of public roles at Board level, using her experience, skills and expertise to help organisations and public bodies as they develop and grow.

Chancellor, it is not only for her distinguished professional career that we present Deborah Shackleton today, it is for her commitment and service to this University through long service as a senior Governor.

Deborah was born in Huddersfield and brought up in Derbyshire in a hard-working family where her parents were both academics, her mother worked as a teacher and her father a research scientist. She and her late brother were encouraged to aspire and achieve. A bright girl who enjoyed learning, Deborah remembers a supportive household where there was never any sense of a glass ceiling; her parents were both the first of their generation to go to University, and with an aunt who studied for a PhD at Oxford she was surrounded by positive role models.

A place at Oxford followed where she studied mathematics, and where she met her husband Martin. After graduation the couple took it in turns to follow wherever either of them landed a job and when Martin secured a position in the North, they settled here to bring up their two boys, Adam and Luke, and put down roots in Liverpool.

Helping other people to put down roots has been at the heart of Deborah’s professional life.

Until her retirement in 2011, Deborah was Chief Executive of the Riverside Group. The Riverside Group is a not-for-profit charitable housing association and property company with over 52,000 homes available for rent in 200 local authorities across England and Wales. Based in Merseyside, the Group has assets worth over £1.7 billion, a turnover of £250 million and over 2,500 staff.

Those figures represent an astonishing portfolio, particularly for a charitable organisation whose aim is to provide affordable housing to those most in need. The Group kickstarts regeneration, revitalises neighbourhoods, creates communities and ultimately transforms the lives of its tenants.

Deborah’s vision and inspirational leadership was recognised in 2009 when she was awarded a CBE for services to the housing sector. 

In addition to the very demanding day job, throughout her career, Deborah has undertaken some heavy duty board level jobs which have included National Musems Liverpool, North West Regional Leaders Board, NHS Sefton, the National Housing Federation and Governor of Merchant Taylors School in Crosby.

And even in retirement she maintains her involvement in a number of organisations and is currently Chair of Career Connect, Board member of LCVS, the Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services, Chair of the Grainger Trust and Board member of the Housing Finance Corporation.

Today though, we honour Deborah for her exceptional service to this University – as the current Chair of the Board of Governors, it has been my great privilege to serve alongside Deborah on the many and varied committees of the Board.

Deborah’s term of office at Liverpool John Moores University has taken her from March 2003 when she was appointed as a Governor to this last September when she retired. During her period of office Deborah has been Deputy Chair of the Board, Deputy Chair of Nominations Committee, Chair of the Renumeration Committee and a Member of the Chairmens Group. She has also served on the Finance Committee and the Audit Committee – and has presided over Graduation ceremonies on behalf of the Chancellor.

This represents an enormous commitment to this University. The Governors are the guardians of the University, we are not the executive board, we don’t sit alongside the Vice-Chancellor and the senior team making decisions on the operation of the University, but we do have ultimate oversight of the direction of the University and where it is going.

Since her appointment to the Governors, Deborah has provided wise counsel and advice to the Vice-Chancellor and his senior team, she has been a strong and committed voice on behalf of the students and staff and she has helped to steer the University to its current position of success.

The Governors are largely invisible to students, and indeed to most staff, but they work tirelessly behind the scenes, supporting the work of the University and take great pride in the role they have. Today it is a great pleasure to be able to pay public tribute to one of our longest serving Governors for the enormous contribution she has made to the success of Liverpool John Moores University. 

Thus it is with great personal pleasure that I present Deborah Shackleton, this most distinguished adopted daughter of our city for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.