Wednesday, December 17, 2008

That was a week, that was

Getting up to face the snow in Grasmere a couple of weeks ago, I went into my study to see what the fax machine had brought overnight. On top of the pile was a letter from Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Paul Welling, inviting me to accept an Honorary Doctorate from the University. The award of Doctor of Laws (LLD) is to mark the contribution I’ve made to the field of creativity and innovation in business and education. Wow.


Talk about totally unexpected and out of the blue. I was blown away. There’s no recognition like local recognition.

Ever since leaving school somewhat prematurely in 1966, I’ve been committed to the concept of a great education as being the best preparation and foundation we can offer kids. As far as I’m concerned, it sits right beside giving young people a sense of purpose, values, performance, unconditional parental love, and support. I spend a fair bit of my time working with students in various countries. I particularly enjoy going back to my hometown of Lancaster and working there as a Governor of my school, Lancaster Royal Grammar School, and having the opportunity to mentor Rachel Cooper as she sets up her innovation and creative design lab, ImaginationLancaster, at the University.

So to be recognized in this way by my hometown university is a thrill that’s really beyond compare. The ceremony will take place during the week of 13 July 2009 and, as cream on the cake, the degree is to be conferred by the Chancellor, Sir Christian Bonington. Chris Bonington was a hero of mine in the 70’s as he knocked off peak, after peak in his incredible and inspiring career. His books on mountaineering were my constant companion during that time.

The honor arrived a day after I visited Oxford University at the invitation of John Hood. John went across to Oxford as Vice-Chancellor four and a half years ago after a brilliant business career in New Zealand. In that time he has taken the University forward across every dimension. I had the privilege of talking to his MBA students and then joining a dozen or so of them for dinner at the Vice-Chancellor’s lodgings later that evening. It’s invigorating to be around MBA students, particularly ones who have taken the courageous step of leaving their jobs and investing in themselves and their education. These people are on the verge of transforming their lives and, having talked with them, I certainly get the feeling our future is in great hands.

To cap off a great week, I signed a contract with the University of Auckland to become a member of their staff as an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics. I’m committed to working with Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, and Business School Dean, Greg Whittred, to bring real life experience to their MBA program which starts in January 2009.

What a week. It has been a time of connecting past, present, and future. Connecting my upbringing in Lancaster to my adult life in Auckland - the common thread being education.

I feel humbled and honored to be able to give back to these young students, and I’m looking forward to inspiring them to make a difference and play their role in making the world a better place.