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Dame Dianne Jeffrey DBE (née Cantor)

Former Chairman of AGE UK and Age International

Class of 1957

Dianne has recently completed her nine year term of office as Chairman of Age UK, the foremost age charity in the UK providing support and information to people in later life, and of Age International which supports older people in the developing world.

She was appointed CBE in the Birthday Honours in 2011 and was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Derby in 2012 and from Sheffield Hallam University in 2014.

My Background

After leaving Sheffield Girls’ (aged 13) I went to Badminton School Bristol, and from there to Sheffield University where I studied Psychology.

Times were so different then – I married a law student at the end of my second year, and then gave birth to our first child during our final exams. Then followed 15 years’ pure domesticity as we had four children in the space of five years and it was a very busy time. As they became more independent I went to work in the family retail furnishing company using my study of dynamics of human behaviour as a management executive specialising in sales training.

Computers were just beginning to make their appearance and I embraced digital technology as fast as I could. We sold our company in 1995, and I was recruited into the new NHS structure as a community trust chairman. From there I went on to chair the national body representing Management in the NHS. Constant restructuring in the NHS was so demoralising, and I was very fortunate to be invited to chair a national housing association, then the University of Derby, and finally a national charity Age UK. Along the way I have been extremely lucky to be awarded two honorary doctorates and a CBE, for public service.

None of this would have been possible, I am absolutely convinced, without the strong values and ethos I learned from my very first day at Sheffield Girls’.

What advice would you give to pupils at Sheffield Girls’ today?

Always believe in yourself, first and foremost. I attribute whatever success I have had to the fact that I am not an expert at anything – but have somehow managed to convince people that I am!

When looking at possible career paths don’t forget the public and the voluntary sectors. You will meet some of the brightest people there and also potentially gain the most satisfaction from what you do. So my tip is remember to listen very attentively – no matter what the circumstances – and then your responses or reactions will be able to reflect back what you have heard. This never fails to impress! Finally, just smile. There is a mile between s and s in the word smiles. So smiling will make you happy.

French, English, Spanish, and Latin

BA Psychology at The University of Sheffield

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