I have been fortunate enough to have been taught by Simon when I was a Joint Honours Sociology student from 1999-2002, and then to work with him as a colleague from 2007-2012. We had seen each other a few times since I left the University of Derby (I wish that it had been more often – and that our last meeting could’ve been more glamorous than an impromptu one by an escalator in the Intu!), and I cherish his friendship and mentorship immensely.
Because I was a Joint Honours student, I was not able to take most of Simon’s theory modules, but he taught me in my final year and was my dissertation supervisor. I wrote my dissertation on youth transitions and risk in late modernity – I remember with some trepidation asking Simon (in the pub!) whether he would consider supervising my dissertation, and I was delighted when he agreed. That marked the beginning of many intellectually stimulating, challenging conversations with Simon, continuing when I returned to Derby as a colleague. As many others have commented, his knowledge and skills of social and cultural commentary and critique were second to none. Whilst I often struggled to keep up with his incredible knowledge, I always enjoyed Simon’s company.
Simon had an exceptionally keen, intelligent and dry sense of humour – it was therefore apt that he developed a module on Humour and Society. I won’t call it groundbreaking or innovative, as he hated the corporate academic lingo that we academics are conditioned to embrace, but it made a valuable contribution to the Sociology curriculum, along with his modules on music and globalisation, amongst others. He was thoroughly committed to delivering high quality teaching which challenged students to think about society and culture in new and enlightened ways. Equally, he didn’t suffer fools gladly: when discussing students were not engaging, the advice to them to “piss on the pot or get off” is a phrase that I will never forget!
Whilst Simon had many passions, technology and administration were not among them. He often commented on the irony of needing to slope into my office to seek assistance with administrative tasks, and I remember his shock and disbelief when we received new computers and, on inspecting his, he realised that there was no floppy disk drive!
Simon’s untimely death is a huge shock – I am so sad that our rich, stimulating, supportive conversations will be no more. My heart is broken for Anna and Melitta, for whom he clearly had so much love, and of whom he was so proud. I wish he could read all of these wonderful comments and realise the profound effect that he has had on so many. Thank you, Simon.