Keith Cameron

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Keith Gordon Cameron for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

Keith Cameron was born in Bury in 1947 and moved to Slough in the early 1950s. After A Levels at Windsor Grammar School, and with his family in need of money, he found employment in sales and production in the engineering industry. He soon realised that his career options were limited without the necessary training and qualifications, so in 1967 he began a 4-year BSc in Social Science at the University of Bath. In his final year, he chose Personnel Management as his specialist subject and enjoyed a successful placement at Bestobel Aviation.     

After he graduated with honours in 1971, Bestobel re-employed him as a personnel officer.

Thereafter, Keith's reputation grew through senior personnel appointments with Rank Xerox, Union Carbide, Levi Strauss, Currys and Storehouse.  

In 1988, he joined The Burton Group as Personnel Director of Debenhams, becoming Group Personnel Director in 1992. He gained a position on the Board in 1994 as Executive Director for Operations, Logistics, Property, Shop Design & Development and Personnel.  

With the demerger of Debenhams in 1998, Keith became Executive Director, Stores, Personnel and Operations for the restructured Group which began trading as the Arcadia Group. His prominence in his field has led to his national involvement in retail affairs: he has for example been a member of the British Retail Consortium's Board of Management, Chairman of the Home Office's Retail Crime Steering Group and a member of the Executive Board of Industry in Education Limited.  

In 2001, Keith retired for the first time and became closely involved in revitalising the Wensleydale Railway, at one stage providing telling leadership through his chairing of the Wensleydale Railway Association. 

In 2004, he was persuaded out of retirement to assist his old friend Stuart Rose in turning round the fortunes of Marks & Spencer - which was beset by falling sales, a demotivated workforce, and with poor retention rates for new staff.  

As HR Director, Keith determined to make enthusiastic, efficient and courteous customer service the standard for the company. He initiated major investment in the staff through a simplified pay structure, better opportunities for career progression, and increased training on the shop floor, with 8000 experienced staff trained as coaches.  

£10 million was spent on a motivational change programme delivered by an American business guru for all 56,000 employees. Keith Cameron was at the core of this new Age of Simplicity at M&S. 

A paternalistic culture was replaced by a more competitive culture with much improved customer service. 

Staff morale improved as did sales figures - staff's belief and pride in the brand was restored.  As one headline put it, this was not just HR, this was M&S HR.  

Married since 1971 - Pauline is here today to share in the occasion - Keith resumed his retirement about a year ago. He now finds time to indulge his passion for flying - he once part-owned a plane with Stuart Rose - and he enjoys bike riding and has recently taken up golf, although he appears to remain as busy as ever - he holds several non-executive directorships and is a Trustee of Sue Ryder Care, a charity providing compassionate care to people living with long-term and end-of-life conditions. 

He is also an active alumnus of the University of Bath, teaching on their MBA programme, and we were particularly pleased to have his enthusiastic involvement as a member of our World-of-Work Advisory Panel - a panel comprised of leading employers and business experts to assist us in ensuring that our graduates are employable and entrepreneurial.  

Keith Cameron in many ways is a role model for our students and graduates. Whilst an undergraduate, he gained valuable work experience which gave him insights into the kind of career he wanted and proved extremely helpful in securing his first job after graduation. 

Thereafter, his career progression demonstrated his adaptability, his willingness to seize opportunities and his ability to see change as a challenge rather than a threat.   

And he has consistently 'put something back', for example, sharing his experience with MBA students, using his business skills to bring tourists to Wensleydale, and helping us at LJMU to make a step change in the way a university prepares its students for the World of Work. 

We are proud to honour him today.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Keith Gordon Cameron, this most distinguished person, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.