John Kennedy CBE

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

John Kennedy was born in 1938 in New York City and currently holds dual Irish and American Citizenship.

Educated largely in the Republic of Ireland, he lives in Cheshire with his wife, Vera - they have two sons and two daughters.

A combination of bold entrepreneurship, judicious long-term financial planning and sure-footedness in company management are the distinguishing features of John Kennedy's business career. Although it is true to say that he has a natural flair for business and people management, John has also kept abreast of management issues, particularly the management of change, by attending courses at various seats of learning, including the University of Hull, and the University of Oxford.

After working in the construction industry, Mr Kennedy founded his own business, John Kennedy Civil Engineering Ltd in 1961. From then until his retirement 5 years ago, he was the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Company, carrying out contracts throughout the United Kingdom from the Manchester headquarters.

The company's blue lorries are a common sight and not always welcome to motorists since they are often associated with road-works and traffic delays. However, it is thanks to John Kennedy that these delays are shorter than they used to be, for his company pioneered a technique of replacing lengths of underground piping without the need to dig up equivalent lengths of road.

Ignoring the pressures to assume plc status, John Kennedy nurtured this invention with the result that the Company grew progressively in reputation - and profitability. It presently enjoys the status of one of the leading specialist contractors to British Gas and many of the privatised Water Companies, National River Authorities and Local Authorities.  

Recently the Company has expanded its portfolio beyond the United Kingdom, and has completed contracts internationally, for example in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Board of Public Works in association with Acer Consultants.

Not surprisingly, John Kennedy has become a Chairman or Director of associated companies in property, engineering, pipeline technology and consultancy and in 1997 was named 'Businessman of the Year' by the Allied Irish Bank in association with The Irish Post. His pre-eminence in his field has brought him numerous honours, including being made a Fellow of the Institution of Highways and Transportation in 1992, and Companion of the Institution of Gas Engineers in 1993.

Despite the heavy commitment involved in building and ensuring the survival of a successful company, John has been involved in a wide range of charitable and related activities with a particular focus on children, Irish affairs, and the economic regeneration of the North West.

Dear to his heart is the health and well-being, particularly the mental health, of young children. 

To this end, he has been an active Committee Member for the North West Division NSPCC; Chairman of the Mencap 'Blue Sky Appeal' , Trustee and Director of The Adventure Farm Trust in Millington, Cheshire, and a Member of the Committee of The Rainbow Family Trust which established the first Hospice in the North West dedicated to terminally ill children.

John has been long determined to give something back to the Irish community by improving the condition of his fellow-countrymen in Britain, supporting the peace process in Northern Ireland by, for example, sponsoring the Friends of the Good Friday Agreement, and improving understanding between the peoples of Ireland and Britain.  

He has helped to ensure the continued development of pioneering programmes such as the Liverpool-based 'lreland in Schools" which seeks to make the study of Ireland a normal part of the curriculum in Britain. He has also been a member of the Development Council of the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool. 

And last month he even found time to travel to Japan to support the heroic Irish squad in the World Cup.

John has also demonstrated sustained support for further and higher education in the North West. He has had close associations with the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, and North Trafford College. In recent years, he has had increasing involvement with Liverpool John Moores University through the Foundation for Citizenship led by Professor the Lord Alton.

John Kennedy has a deep commitment to the economic regeneration of the North West. Besides taking part in trade missions to Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States, he has been an active member of numerous business development groups, including the North West Business Leadership Team.

John Kennedy has also enjoyed taking part in public life. Appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Greater Manchester on 14 March 1997, he is a member of the Lord Lieutenant's Advisory Committee and was for several years Chairman of the Trafford Advisory Committee to the Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster, sorting out suitable candidates for the role of justice of the peace.

Despite all these worthy preoccupations, John still finds time for recreation. He enjoys music, swimming, and is a keen and improving golfer.

John Kennedy, entrepreneur, dedicated public servant, philanthropist, and bridge-builder between nations, is a most worthy recipient of an honour.

Thus I present to you this distinguished person for admission to the honour of Fellow of this University.