Commodore Rod Walker

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting Commodore Roderick Walker for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University. 

Rod Walker's career has seen him give service in Chartered Accountancy, the Extractive Industry, the Royal Navy, Cancer Services, and Higher Education. His connection with higher education began when he became a governor of Liverpool John Moores University in 1995. Since then, he has served the university with great commitment and distinction and was elected Chair of the Governors and Pro Chancellor in 2003. He has excelled in this critical leadership role, taking a particular and telling interest in student issues. He has been a unifying force and a stabilising influence, bringing together diverse views and approaches to achieve effective consensus at Board level. He has always managed to communicate his pride in the University. His enthusiasm for LJMU is tangible. His term completed in March of this year, he has now retired from office but there is no doubt that he will be a lifelong friend, supporter and ambassador of LJMU.  

Rod was born in 1935 in Newcastle, Staffordshire to Archibald and Molly Walker. He attended Newcastle High School in the late 1940s at a time when he enjoyed swimming and driving farm tractors more than his schoolwork. The family then moved to the Wirral where Rod attended Caldy Grammar School. There his academic performance improved, particularly in mathematics, and he left school with 9 passes in the newly established GCE examinations. 

At this time, he joined Caldy Rugby Club and he is still a devoted and enthusiastic member 56 years on. His early ambition was to be an engineer but instead followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a Chartered Accountant at the young age of 21 - that was after following a correspondence course which required 3 hours study per evening for 4 nights per week after full days at the office. 

His son Phil reckons that judging by Rod's recent attempts at assembling a climbing frame for his granddaughter Jasmine, it was just as well he didn't become an engineer. In 1956 he undertook National Service with the Royal Navy, his preferred option. He saw service with coastal minesweepers as a navigator in the Mediterranean, Turkey and to Aden through the Suez Canal, with President Nasser's gunboats in attendance. He found the experience very fulfilling and he continued his service in the Royal Naval Reserve, latterly with Naval Home Command, and retiring as Commodore in the Royal Naval Reserve in 1993.  

Back home after national service, Rod became a partner in Hesketh & Jackson, his father's Liverpool firm, and was made a senior partner in 1962. Thereafter he specialised in Company Tax and Corporate Recovery, retiring in 1994. In 1965, he used his expertise to buy the Archibald Bathgate Group. 

Today Rod is Chairman of the Group which has interests in speciality silica sand, road tanker transport and commercial leasing. He also has interests in a family dairy farm in Staffordshire.

Rod married Ann Boyle in 1963 and they have 2 children and three granddaughters. Rod is quick to pay tribute to Ann for her staunch support and guidance over the years. At least in the family setting, Rod describes himself as 'a hewer of wood and drawer of water' - he actually ensured this humble role for himself early in the marriage when, on his first venture into the kitchen, he set fire to the chip pan! Ann is here today, and fully deserves to share in this special occasion. 

Apart from his service with the Royal Naval Reserve and with Liverpool John Moores University, Rod Walker has held a range of public offices:  

  • Governor and Vice-chairman, Caldy Grammar School 
  • Trustee and Chair of the Audit Committee, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
  • member of the County Employers Liaison Team 
  • Chairman, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology 
  • Honorary Colonel, Royal Marine Reserve 
  • High Sheriff of Merseyside and 
  • Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Merseyside  

Rod Walker is the perfect example of good citizenship in action. He has enjoyed a successful multi-faceted career in commerce and industry whilst also finding considerable time for public service across a variety of agencies, including the NHS, the Royal Navy, the county of Merseyside, and Liverpool John Moores University. He is worthy of a fellowship on any number of counts, but today we are delighted to honour him for his outstanding service to this university over the past 12 years - and we look forward to the continuing friendship and support of Rod, and his wife Ann, for many years to come.  

Thus I have pleasure in presenting Commodore Roderick Walker, CBE, this most distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.