RUSS LANGLEY: Vice-Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice Lord Lieutenant, Mayor of Derby, Honoured guests and Graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Jane Ide OBE for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.
Jane is the CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, national membership body supporting over 1,700 members from some of the largest charities in the country to the smallest, local, community-focused charities.
Jane was born in London, grew up and was educated in Somerset, and studied communication studies (and later, organisational development and consultancy) at Sheffield Hallam University. During her career Jane has specialised in working with small charities and voluntary organisations to develop their vision, values and strategic direction.
The firm foundation of Jane's career was the work she did as Associate Director of Corporate Communications with the then Derbyshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. In that role she successfully led the campaign to persuade government to allow the prioritisation of emergency ambulance response. Where Derbyshire led, the rest of the nation's ambulance services followed, and in the three decades since hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved as a result. However, she is very clear that it wasn't all plain sailing.
While undertaking her first degree she began to suffer from a debilitating panic disorder which kept her housebound for nearly three years and had a very direct impact on her studies and her early career. A lack of awareness of the condition at the time meant she had to find a road to recovery on her own. Her experience of mental illness ultimately made her stronger and more resilient, and informs her leadership on a daily basis, where she is known for her compassion and understanding of others' challenges and needs.
Jane joined the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action in 2016, becoming its Chief Executive in 2017. In that role she became the founding co-chair of the VCS Emergencies Partnership, created in 2018 in the wake of the Grenfell disaster to provide coordination among local and national organisations responding to crises.
She was also at the heart of coordinating the national voluntary sector response to Covid and played a lead role in the collaborative campaign that achieved a £750 million emergency package to support charities early in the pandemic. Jane was appointed chief executive of Creative and Cultural Skills in November 2020, a UK-wide agency that works to develop, promote, and support career paths into the creative and cultural industries.
She took up her current role of CEO at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations in May 2022. Jane received an OBE for services to volunteering and charity in the 2021 New Year's Honours List.
Her connection with Derbyshire continues as nine years ago she and her husband Stuart moved from Sheffield to the heart of the Peak National Park, and she feels enormously privileged to be part of a thriving community in such a beautiful part of the country. She is joined here today by husband Stuart, and her sons Paul and Jacob.
Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of her contribution to volunteering and the charity sector we are delighted to award Jane Ide the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.
JANE IDE OBE: Wow. It's a bit of a moment this, isn't it?
So, Vice-Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice Lord Lieutenant, Mayor of Derby, Honoured guests, and above all graduands, to say that I find myself surprised to be here is something of an understatement. I think the technical term is gobsmacked. It is the most unexpected honour, and I am grateful to the University for giving me this privilege. I want to congratulate every one of you graduating today for your achievement. I hope you feel truly proud of what you've done and that you're enjoying every moment of this very special occasion.
But I'd also like to speak directly to those perhaps who are not here today, those who didn't feel they'd achieved anything worth celebrating, those who maybe didn't even make it to the end of the course. So, if you've got a friend like that, maybe somebody you studied with who you wish was here but isn't, please share what I have to say with them because my heart is very much with them today.
And the reason for that is very simple, the moment I received and read a very gracious letter offering me this honorary doctorate, my mind went straight back to a day in 1983, way before the time most of you were born, I suspect, to the phone call that I made to my dad to tell him that I had the results of my bachelor's degree. My father had never gone to university, although he absolutely should have done, and he had done so much to support my education all through my life, and I had to call and tell him that I'd messed it up. I haven't got anything like the result that he and I both knew I was capable of doing.
As you heard just now in that very gracious and slightly embarrassing commendation, as I was in the midst of my studies, I found myself battling the worst possible anxiety disorder. By the time I reached the end of my second year I couldn't sit in an exam room, and throughout my third year I couldn't even leave my house to attend lectures.
With the support of very generous tutors and incredible friends who made all sorts of alternative arrangements for me I somehow scraped through, but I knew I'd let myself down. I didn't believe I had anything to celebrate and so almost to the day 39 years ago I didn't go to my graduation ceremony, I stayed at home, I thought about my friends, and I felt as though my life was over. The thing is though, I was wrong, I had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead of me. At that point I could see no future whatsoever, but the glory of life and its challenge is that we really do not have the ability to predict what lies ahead.
Life is not linear and whatever you think your future holds, the one thing I can absolutely guarantee you is that unexpected things will happen. I had no idea on that really tough day that just a few years later I would have a passing conversation with someone that would turn out to be the trigger, not just for my whole career and all that I've been able to achieve within it, but for a huge part of my personal life.
I haven't got a clue that I would get to meet and talk to people whose lives were saved, literally, by the work I had done. I could never have imagined that I would end up in a role that would feel like the greatest privilege to hold and to be involved in a sector that every single day touches millions of lives and makes the world a genuinely better place. And I absolutely surely and for certain had no idea that I would get to be the enormously proud adoptive mum of two very fine young men, both of whom are here with me today.
So, my first message today is, be prepared for what life throws at you, be open to the unexpected, grab whatever chances come your way, and have faith that the tough times will pass, because I promise you they always, always do. The second thing I want to say to you, to all of you, is about opportunity and the chances you have ahead of you to really change the world. I said that my father should have gone to university but never did. When he was a young man, it was simply not an option because his family couldn't afford for him and his siblings not to be earning an income as soon as they left school.
90 odd years later that is still the story for too many bright talented young people, and we all know that the barriers to higher education that you face if you are black or queer or disabled or neurodiverse are still all too real despite the inroads made by so many universities, including this one, and I'm very proud to see what this University does on this.
Every single one of you graduating today should be extremely proud of what you've achieved and those of you who have overcome those additional barriers should be even more so.
But the one thing you all now have in common is that you have earned the privilege of a qualification that will undoubtedly open doors for you that may still be kept firmly closed for others. And especially as professionals in the education sector you will have opportunities to open doors, to remove barriers, and to create space for others, be they your colleagues or your students.
Doing so won't just change the world for those individuals, it will help us build the equitable, inclusive, innovative world we need if we are to overcome the very real challenges that face us as a nation and as a global community. My generation has, to be honest, failed in that endeavour. We're too late to the party, we've been too slow to understand and acknowledge the effect of our actions and even worse of our inaction.
We are looking to you, all of you starting out down a new road and a new chapter in your lives, to make the changes that we have failed to make. And I want to be clear that whilst I know many of you are just starting out on your careers and right at the start of that journey, I also know that some among you will have come to these studies later on in life, and I just want to say for those people, all power to your elbows.
I promise you, I wouldn't be standing here right now if I hadn't taken a few left turns along the way, made the choice to do things that were slightly different, taken the chances to try something new. I started late and I might run out of time before I run out of things to do, but I've learned that it is never too late to start finding new ways to change the world.
And finally, I'd like to say this, if I could, I would go back to that day in 1983 and say, 'But look Dad, it's all right, everything's going to work out in the end.' Sadly, that opportunity is long gone. I'm so very glad that my family is here with me today, and Stuart and Paul and Jacob, I love you and I'm so proud of you.
But today, I remember and I honour my father and all he taught me. So, in closing, if I may, I'd like to dedicate this very unexpected and very gratefully received doctorate to a man who should have had one of his own. This one's for you pops.