Cumbria Women of the Year 2009 Winner
Each year when the search begins for our ‘Cumbria Woman of the Year’ we are asked about the qualities we expect to find in the chosen lady. We are looking for someone who works tirelessly for their community, who has enthusiasm, commitment, a well rounded personality, excellent leadership skills, a wide range of experience and professionalism and an ability to evaluate and solve problems. She should be an approachable and caring person, but able to overcome adversity, build bridges and inspire others.
It sounds a great deal to ask, but Debbie Keighley fulfils the brief perfectly.
Debbie is a senior scientist in the nuclear industry and when at university she was the only female in her year reading engineering. Professionally highly regarded, she is also much respected for mentoring young scientists. Her professional achievements are extraordinary but the Cumbria Women of the Year award also recognises her outstanding service to the girl guide movement in Cumbria over many years, as she has helped countless young women to achieve their potential. They, in turn, make their own positive contribution to society. Early in her career Debbie trained as a brownie guider and used her knowledge as a scientist to undertake crafts and activities around concepts such as space travel and jet engines, making science fun – guiding has become a passion in her life and she has served Cumbria as a leader, trainer and for five years as County Commissioner for Cumbria north; the distinction she achieved in that role was recognised by the guiding association with a laurel award. She has shown great skill and interest leading several overseas expeditions with guides and working to develop the guiding movement in Eastern Siberia.
The most striking aspect of her leadership style is her supportive manner, her ability to listen and understand whilst ensuring that the girls should have a great and memorable time in a climate of positivity and safety. As well as chairing the steering group organising the launch event of the Cumbria Centenary guiding celebrations, she has overseen the organisation of planting of woodland at Blencathra, a camp for guides, day events for Brownies and Rainbows and the closing ceremony of the centenary. Debbie’s role in this very significant event involved up to 2,500 girls and their leaders, so the CWY Committee felt this was a highly appropriate time to honour her exceptional contribution.
She is also a trustee of young Cumbria, where her knowledge of the county and young people are much appreciated by her fellow trustees and serves as one of two adults attending the Allerdale Youth Bank monthly meetings where young people themselves decide whether or not youth groups should receive grants.
In all she does, she is supported by her husband Mick. Debbie’s dedication, personal attributes, commitment and enthusiasm have had a huge impact on Cumbrian girls and illustrates that commitment to our community is both worthwhile and highly rewarding. She is a very worthy winner of Cumbria Woman of the Year.