Shears, Lyn and Trevor
b. 1947 and 1945 -2014
Champions for philanthropy
Trevor Shears had a lifelong passion for land transport – railways, trams and particularly buses – that he pursued both as a hobby and ultimately as a career. He was born in Bradford where his father worked as a teacher and was educated at Bradford Grammar School. He left school aged 16 and trained and qualified as an accountant with a local firm before gaining industrial experience. He joined the Gateshead-based bus company, Northern General, in 1974, where he rose through the ranks to become Director of Finance, working with Martin Ballinger as chief executive. When Northern General was privatised in 1987, he and Martin led a four-person management buy-out to retain ownership of the company in North East. Relaunched as the Go-Ahead Group, the company embarked on a programme of acquisitions, becoming large enough to float on the London Stock Exchange as a public company in 1994. This, at a stroke, made Trevor and his wife Lyn a wealthy couple with a fortune in company shares, then worth £20 million, and eventually far more.
Lyn and Trevor became a couple in 1988 and married in 1992, each having come out of earlier marriages. They were devoted to one another, with a common outlook on life and shared values. It was the depth and sincerity of their beliefs and values that made them such a powerful force for good. From an early age during her upbringing on the Isle of Wight, as part of a devout Methodist family, Lyn was taught to care for people in need. The same applied to Trevor, but not to the extent of his developing religious faith. What he and Lynn came jointly to believe was not in the redemptive power and authority of a supernatural being but, to quote Trevor, in the universal moral values that Christianity championed: “Christianity has fashioned the way that we teach things about moral issues and about society, but I believe that they existed before Christianity and that… society [can only] exist by having a set of ground rules about how you behave towards each other.” One of these ground rules is that behaving generously toward others less fortunate is an obligation, not an option. To quote Lyn:
“It’s not so much that there should be equality because… the whole ethos of western society is about working hard to improve yourself, and if the end result of that is that you end up with wealth, then fine, I’ve no problem with that. What I do think should be clearer in peoples’ psychology, or whatever, is that once they do have that wealth that they should be thinking much more about recycling it back into society.”
It was this principle that led Lyn and Trevor to endow the Shears Foundation with 40% of their personal wealth, £8 million in Go-Ahead shares when established in 1994.
Trevor retired from the company in 1996 to spend more time with Lyn and to concentrate on supporting philanthropic causes. After a few years, the couple decided to focus on education as the master theme of their philanthropy; reasoning that education is the route to liberation from all kinds of economic and social problems, in the arts, communities, schools, health, and the environment. For more than twenty years, it has made grants every year of around £800,000, so has distributed more than £20 million to charities, mainly in the North East. Substantial additional grants have been made through family funds held at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, not least through its Local Environmental Action Fund (LEAF), which Lyn and Trevor passionately supported with their time as well as money. The Shears Foundation still had investments valued at £17,724,759 on 31 March 2017, promising to be a substantial regional grant maker for many years to come.
Trevor was awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to charity. It was a sad loss to Lyn, his family, many friends, and communities across the North East when he passed away in 2014. Lyn has carried on where they left off as a couple. When the Northern Rock Foundation was winding down its operations in 2016, it made a number of legacy gifts, one of which was a grant in kind to the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to help purchase its HQ, Philanthropy House, in Gosforth, a beautifully restored Methodist chapel. The Northern Rock Foundation support, however, covered only 50% of the purchase price. Lyn donated the remainder in memory of Trevor. Lyn, and Trevor posthumously, were awarded The Prince of Wales Medal for their contribution to arts philanthropy in 2015. Lyn continues to serve as Patron of the Community Foundation for whom she has already done so much.
Business in the community. (2018). Lyn Shears and the late Trevor Shears OBE, Available here (Accessed: 05/09/2018).
Harvey, C. (2012). Interview with Lyn and Trevor Shears conducted on 26 September 2012.
Philanthropy Impact. (2018). Lyn and Trevor Shears, Available here (Accessed: 05/09/2018).
Yorkshire Post. (2014). Obituary – Trevor Shears, Available here (Accessed: 05/09/18).