The founder of Specsavers and a leading figure in the Scottish charity sector will receive honorary degrees at the University of Stirling’s Winter Graduation this week.
Dame Mary Perkins and Paul Dumbleton will be honoured at the ceremonies in the Gannochy National Tennis Centre at the University’s Stirling campus on Friday 21 November, which will also see 950 students graduate.
Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, will receive the award of Doctor of the University in recognition of her outstanding contribution to retailing and championing the role of women in business.
Having experienced significant growth since Dame Mary and her husband founded the company in 1984, Specsavers is now the largest privately owned optical retailer in the world with a turnover estimated at £1.5 billion and with over 1,700 outlets in ten countries. In 2013, Perkins was identified as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Mary Perkins said: “The word to focus on is ‘honorary’ as that is exactly what I feel – it is a great honour to receive a degree from the University of Stirling. Stirling has an excellent reputation and this is recognised by employers as a high percentage of graduates get immediate employment – an accolade in today’s current climate.
“As an employer of over 30,000 staff in the UK, education heads up our requirements. Many of our people are graduates in optometry, dispensing optics or audiology, but we also recruit graduates to further their knowledge in the Specsavers Academy where, amongst many subjects, we have good retailing and leadership programmes.
“Whoever you are in whatever size company, you have to know how you fit into the vision of that company. We have a saying in Specsavers, you have to be MAD – ‘Making a difference’ – whoever you are. Knowing how you make that difference is an important mantra for me.
“Specsavers have had graduate employees go on to do an MBA at Stirling, so I think the phrase ‘Should’ve gone to Stirling’ is a very apt strapline for me to echo!”
Paul Dumbleton will receive the award of Master of Arts in recognition of his outstanding contribution to charitable organisations in Stirling and Scotland. A Stirling alumnus, Dumbleton has a background in childcare, education and the voluntary sector, with a focus on supporting disadvantaged people and developing new opportunities for disabled children and young adults.
In the mid-1980s, he was involved in the establishment and growth of PLUS, a Stirling charity for young people with disabilities. After becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2002, PLUS grew quickly, developing to support not only children and young people with disabilities, but also young adults and the families across the whole Forth Valley area.
He said: “I am surprised and excited to be honoured by the University of Stirling. Stirling has been my home for most of my adult life and during the 1980s I attended twilight classes at the University to study part-time for a Master of Education degree. I learned things then which have stayed with me and informed me through a varied working life.
“After teaching for many years my career path led me into the voluntary sector and I feel that being honoured in this way is really an honour for PLUS, which does so much for disabled children and their families.
“This honour brings together two aspects of my life of which I am proud, firstly my adopted home town Stirling and its University, and secondly working for PLUS and in the voluntary sector.”
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling said: “Dame Mary Perkins’ entrepreneurial talents as the founder of Specsavers and her achievements in retailing make her an inspiration not only to women in business but to us all.
“Her business acumen and charity work, particularly with Women’s Refuge and Age Concern, were recognised when she became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 and we are delighted to honour her at our Winter Graduation.
“Paul Dumbleton worked tirelessly to improve the lives of young people with disabilities and their families during his time at PLUS Stirling and continues to do so through roles in The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and The Scottish Social Services Council. A Stirling alumnus, Paul’s achievements demonstrate the positive impact our graduates can have on other people’s lives.”
“I’d like to congratulate both honorary graduates and all of the students who are graduating on Friday.”
Degrees will be conferred to graduands from the schools of Arts and Humanities, Management, Sport and Applied Social Sciences at the 10am ceremony on Friday 21 November. Following this, graduands from Health Sciences, Education and Natural Sciences will receive their degrees at 2.30pm.
The Winter Graduation follows on from the University’s Highlands and Islands graduation ceremony at the end of last month, which saw almost 100 students graduate.