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Dr Robert Godfrey obituary

Jan Godfrey
·3-min read

My husband, Bob Godfrey, who has died aged 81, had an influential life, which left a lasting legacy in teacher training and higher education.

After graduating in French from Exeter University, and a brief flirtation with industry, Bob began to find his true vocation, moving to France in 1963 and teaching English and business studies at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest.

In 1967 he returned to the UK to work at St Luke’s Teacher Training College, Exeter, as head of French, gaining an MA and a PhD along the way. The next step, in 1975, was to Gypsy Hill College of Education in Kingston upon Thames as head of research and development. Gypsy Hill merged with the then Kingston polytechnic, and Bob soon became head of teacher education and music and then dean of the faculty of education.

This was a difficult time for teacher education, with cuts and many new-style courses. Bob’s faculty emerged even stronger, and his innovative work, not least in school partnerships, was recognised nationally when he sat on the education committee of the Council for National Academic Awards. In 1989 he became deputy director of Kingston, and then, when it became a university in 1992, pro-vice-chancellor. Good relations with the town were critical during this period, and Bob was generous with his time, serving as president of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Despite worsening staff to student ratios, Kingston gained an excellent reputation for teaching and learning, with Bob using his inspirational leadership skills to manage many changes that improved the student experience.

It was no surprise that, soon after retiring from Kingston University in 1999, he was asked to help turn around the fortunes of Thames Valley University. Bob brought all of his skills to the role of supporting the interim vice-chancellor, and a stronger institution emerged. He was held in high regard by staff, many of whom remained firm friends.

Born in Plymouth, Devon, Bob grew up in Newton Abbot, attending the local grammar school. His mother, Amy (nee Hansford), was a teacher and his father, Thomas, an engineering tutor. Pedagogy was in his blood.

The prolonged effects of major reconstructive hip and leg surgery and MDS, a rare blood cancer, took their toll, but Bob never lost his sense of humour, and enjoyed a busy and happy retirement. Everyone who knew Bob valued his friendship and many acts of generosity and kindness. He had been a keen rugby player at Exeter University and was an enthusiastic England supporter, so he was thrilled when, three weeks before he died, his team Exeter Chiefs beat Racing 92 to win the coveted Heineken Champions Cup.

Bob and I met at Kingston polytechnic in 1979 and we married in 1988. He is also survived by his sons, David and Nick, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce, his stepchildren, Rachael and Jason, his grandchildren, Jacques, Felix, Olivia, Ella and Amelie, and his step-grandchildren, Ruben, Ava and Akasha.