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Tribute to John Leftwich

We are sharing the sad news that one of the University’s Fellows, John Leftwich, has died following a short illness.

Here, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, the previous President of our College of Fellows, pays the following tribute.

“The kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime”; “a wonderful advisor, mentor and friend”; “a giant of a character, and a huge presence in any room”; “passionate and focused on every cause he chose to support in Worcestershire”; “his sense of fun and adventure was infectious to all who knew him”; “John had unrivalled energy, connections and personality, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude”.

These are just some of the tributes to John Leftwich which poured in from all over the county following his sad and untimely death on 24 April, just before his 65th birthday.  I concur with all these descriptions of him.

I knew him first when he was elected to a University of Worcester Fellowship in 2009, and I greatly appreciated his friendship and support during my time as president of the College of Fellows.  We shared a passion for heritage railways, and I remember with particular pleasure riding on his 60th birthday special train on the Severn Valley Railway in 2015.  The steam locomotive carried a special “John Leftwich” headboard.  His contribution to the SVR was immense, as it was John who took charge and led the railway’s charitable trust, raising over £5 million.

Fund-raising was indeed John’s forte.  As chairman of the Hereford and Worcester branch of the Prince’s Trust he was named Volunteer of the Year for raising more than £100,000 in 2004.  And as a Worcestershire Ambassador he worked tirelessly with Louise Hewitt (then its chair) to transform its branding and marketing strategy.

John moved to Worcestershire in 2001, having previously lived in Paris for six years, where he was corporate vice-president of Microsoft, responsible for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He was the first Englishman to achieve the distinction of becoming an executive officer of Microsoft, the most valuable company in the world at that time.  At the time he became a Fellow of our university John was described in his local newspaper as one of the founding fathers of the personal computer industry.

When I broke the news of John’s death to him, Professor David Green, Vice-chancellor and chief executive of the university, wrote this to me:

“I am so sorry to hear this news.  I last saw John at the 250th anniversary commemoration of the Boston Massacre by the Mercian regiment (who perpetrated the massacre!).  Characteristically flamboyantly he was wearing a large Union Flag waistcoat to set off the de rigeur Black Tie.  This is such a sad loss.”

I am sure the whole university will echo David’s words, and join me in sending his two sons, Jack and Ed, and his newly-married wife Louise our love and deepest sympathy.

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