Debbie Lye receives OBE in Queen’s birthday honours

Date published: 10 June 2019

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of the Spirit of 2012 charity, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year for her service to community projects.

A former teacher in Rochdale, Debbie took on the role of founding Chief Executive at Spirit in 2013, after spearheading the design and delivery of the London 2012 international sport and social legacy programme, which reached 25 million children and young people in 20 countries worldwide.

Debbie's daughter Amanda McLoughlin also received her own honour on the same day in what Debbie described as 'an amazing coincidence'. Amanda has been awarded her OBE for her exceptional leadership and support for the UK Government during humanitarian crises.

Debbie was born in Rochdale and lived in Shawclough, attending the former Greenhill School (now Falinge Park) before she went to read English at Cambridge.

After her degree, she returned to Rochdale where she married and had three children, teaching at several schools including Oulder Hill, Balderstone and Falinge Park before moving to Rochdale Technical College then Hopwood Hall College as Head of English.

Debbie moved to London to join the Civil Service in 1999 before later joining Spirit.

Under Debbie’s innovative leadership, Spirit has engaged with some of the most challenging social problems of our time: tackling inactivity, social isolation and deprivation, breaking down the barriers that limit the lives of those with disabilities, countering the disenfranchisement of young people, and uniting fractured communities.

Debbie’s visionary leadership and partnership working has seen 2.8m people in the UK benefit as a result, including an army of 40,000 volunteers.

Bill Morris LVO, who has known Debbie professionally for 12 years, said she is “highly principled and dedicated to driving public good through all her projects and this shone out to her colleagues, those she led and those she influenced. She has been a role model and a beacon to many.”

Pete Ainsworth, UK Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund (formerly Big Lottery), which established the Spirit of 2012 Trust, said: “Under her direction the Trust has distributed funds to sporting, cultural and social causes involving the young, the old, volunteers and people with disabilities. These have been life-changing investments for many thousands of people. Her passion for fair play, her insight, good judgement and management skills have ensured that the Trust has fulfilled and exceeded all my original expectations.”

Baroness Sue Campbell, CBE said: “Debbie is the ultimate professional who has dedicated her career to ensuring that all young people receive life skills and opportunities to become the best they can be, whatever their circumstances. Her dedication has touched the lives of so many young people.”

Spirit’s staff and board, as well as the wider Spirit ‘family’ of grantees, volunteers, community organisers and government bodies were swift to congratulate Debbie on her achievement.

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