Oration
Winter 2002

Sir Nick Scheele

Public Orator, Professor Harry Thomason, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on the afternoon of Monday 16 December 2002.


Chancellor, Mayor of Charnwood, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, New graduates of engineering

Today our Honorary Graduand in a very real sense belongs to us. His presence is a signal that the formal ceremonial of Graduation has given way to something very like a family gathering. In honouring Sir Nicholas Scheele we are also celebrating ourselves, and drawing attention to one of the most distinctive characteristics of our University.

From its earliest days, Loughborough has developed an exceptional network of partnerships with industry, the professions, government agencies, associations and commercial enterprises. Nowadays these partnerships flourish in every Department in every Faculty. They are the envy of other universities, who cannot match their range and depth. They give special meaning to all our core activities. They have a massive impact on the community at large and make up what I can safely call the Loughborough Trademark.

The strategic partnerships we have developed are of special importance. These are not off-the-shelf affairs, but tailor-made collaborations whereby the University and a specific Company work together in a sustained way, enabling us both to achieve our business goals to mutual benefit.

In this respect, a jewel in Loughborough’s crown is the multi-faceted relationship we enjoy with Ford Motor. It is a relationship that Chancellor Gordon Brown described as “a partnership between one of our great universities and one of our great companies.” Loughborough provides research and teaching on courses that have been specially designed for Ford’s engineers and these are organised by the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering. We also provide training for Ford’s retail managers through our Business School. In all cases, the University is responsible for the academic excellence of the work while Ford makes sure of its practical relevance to the company’s needs.

The clearest demonstration of our mutual commitment so far is Ford College at Loughborough, which represents one of the company’s largest investments in training outside the USA. The newly emerging relationship in the Centre of Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence at Dagenham is also set to become of national importance and not just local to East London. In all these ventures we are equal partners as in the best relationships.

And this is why I say that our Honorary Graduand today is one of the family. Sir Nick Scheele is Ford Motor, though he would demur and say he is nothing of the kind.

His loyalty and commitment to Ford over more than three decades cannot be questioned. He has resisted all the head-hunters – and we know there are many – who have tried to chop him off from his roots there.

His career at Ford began in 1966 where he held senior purchasing appointments in their British and European Operations before moving to the USA in 1978. He became senior executive of Ford of Mexico in 1988, where he directed manufacturing and marketing operations and developed a strong and lasting relationship with the President of the country. From 1992 to 1999 he was chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Jaguar Cars Ltd. Under his leadership, sales doubled and Jaguar regained its place as one of the world’s top marques in brand image, product quality and customer satisfaction. In January 2000 he was elected Chairman, Ford of Europe, where he is credited with directing the successful transformation of the business. In August 2001 he became group vice-president, Ford North America. Three months later he was appointed president and Chief Operating Officer of Ford Motor itself and is now responsible for the company’s global automotive business.

Not surprisingly, in 2001 he was awarded a knighthood along with the Order of St Michael and St George for services to British exports.

They say Ford people have blue blood in keeping with their blue badge. In this case it is also touched with green and gold after Jaguar.

We were delighted when Sir Nick agreed to accept an honorary doctorate. But we are not welcoming a man who has focused on business issues and is marked out for that alone. If ever there was a well-rounded man, he is standing before you today. Sir Nick is deeply involved in charity and community support projects of every kind and was voted a lifetime member of the NSPCC after successfully chairing an appeal to raise money for Boole House, a child care centre in Coventry. He is an active supporter of the Save the Children Fund, the St Basil’s Appeal for Homeless Children, and is a past president of the British Motor Industry Benevolent Fund. He serves on the Advisory Boards of Coventry and Durham Universities, the British American Chamber of Commerce, the Fullbright Commission and many, many more. He became Chancellor of Warwick University earlier this year, is widely known for his interest in the education of young people, and has been involved in a number of initiatives to raise the profile of training and education.

No wonder we are so comfortable with him. A relaxed, friendly and generous man, he is totally at one with the Loughborough ethic that places such emphasis on research prestige, teaching excellence, and the value of successful business enterprise and innovation that directly contributes to the community we live in.

Sir Nick fully appreciates this larger role of the modern university. As he said in his speech of a few months ago when he was installed as Chancellor of Warwick University:

The American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said that ‘a house should not be ON the hill, it should be OF the hill.’ By the same excellent logic, it is absolutely right that organisations – be they universities, corporations or institutes of any sort – should not simply BE in the communities that surround them, they should be OF those communities.

President of Ford Motor Sir Nick may be; yet here, in a place where everyone works to provide education programmes that directly meet the professional and social needs of the community – especially its life-blood need for employable skills – he finds himself, I hope, simply at home.

In Ford Europe’s 2000 Corporate Citizenship Report, he wrote:

“Perhaps one of the greatest social challenges we face today is in the diversity, education and training of our people and our drive to ensure that all our employees enjoy dignity and fulfilment in the workplace.”

Loughborough is proud to be a significant part of that ambition by providing the means to help achieve Ford Motor’s social goals, as spelled out by this most humane of men. I am truly delighted to have the honour of saying:

Chancellor, I present to you and the University, Sir Nick Scheele, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Technology, honoris causa.


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  H.D.McCullam@lboro.ac.uk, December 2002

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