Simon

Simon really was a remarkable guy. He was incredibly smart and an excellent lecturer, but the thing I will always remember about him is his unique sense of humour. Simon would observe and reflect on everything around him, from politics to students to the quality of food at Open Days. However, the favourite targets of his dry and sharp comments were invariably those in positions of power and authority. It was an absolute privilege to have Simon has a colleague. My thoughts are with his wife, daughter and family.

“Speck”

I was fortunate enough to have Simon (“Speck”) as my personal tutor throughout my time at university. His remarkable knowledge & instant solutions both aided & amazed me.  

He would genuinely engage me, not just academically, but personally too. His tendency to, as he put it, “over- compensate” for his perceived flaws was something we joked about & connected over. His dark & dry sense of humour also resonated with me & a lot of my peers.  

It would be far too arrogant of me to say that I saw myself in Simon – I can only dream of possessing his intellect. But I will say that there were character traits of his that I certainly related to; I like to think he was aware of this. I’m not sure, however, if he knew how much that relatability sustained me during periods of self-doubt & insecurity.    

Our class’ trip to Berlin will always evoke fun memories, with Simon playing a major role within them. His easy-going, chilled & authentic vibe shone even more out of the lecture room & it was apparent that students wanted to be around him &, perhaps unconsciously, craved his attention. (He could also drink most of us under the table yet still maintain an articulate & intellectual conversation – it was pretty admirable).

The standout memory for me, was during the third & final year. When I felt like I was about to fall at the last hurdle, & that everything I was submitting was dire, I unexpectedly received an email from Simon. It was a response to his “Humour & Society” module essay submission. He’d gone out his way to message me personally to express how much he had loved my work & had even thanked me for giving him such an enjoyable read. I still remember the feeling his message gave me – it was almost euphoric.

His acknowledgement would bring joy.

His feedback and grade secured me a first-class degree & for that I will always be grateful.

I count myself very lucky that I was one of his students.

He will always be missed…& respected.     

Simon

Simon was a good man. He was a dedicated lecturer who spent hours and hours preparing his modules, down to the tiniest detail, and helping students. He was also a very good friend, and a supportive person who cared a lot about people.

I will always remember how, in the middle of any conversation, Simon would joke ironically about something and make you realise that, most of the time, we just give too much importance to pretty trivial matters.  Or the way in which he would bring up Hegel to explain his views about any ordinary phenomenon.  Or his attempts to practise self-deprecation – he once even claimed he suffered from “graphophobia” in spite of spending so much of his time writing and reading! In a world where things are often seen as either black or white, Simon was a person full of nuances. He was great, and I will greatly miss him.

I can vividly remember my first lecture with Simon, we were in one of the larger lecture halls with each of us sat in rows. We were discussing deprivation and Simon mentioned two places, both of which he regarded ‘the shithole, back end towns’ of the UK. He was referring to Sunderland and Grimsby and what he meant, of course, was that despite once having thriving industries, in both towns the industry had dried up, and consequently poverty and deprivation had sunk in. I myself, had grown up in Grimsby leaving home for the first time to study my degree. I remember sneaking a glance at the other giggling students and feeling embarrassed. It was only with time and getting to know Simon that I discovered he too had spent some time growing up in the same town, and the aforementioned was just a snippet of the delightfully dry and witty humour that I soon became acquainted with.

I returned to Derby to see Simon on a few occasions and was always greeted with a big smile and encouraging, enthusiastic nods as I updated him on what I was currently up to. As I’ve similarly heard in many of the accounts here, Simon always had time for me. He very kindly provided a reference when (4 years after graduating) I finally plucked up the courage to study a master’s degree and later, whilst studying said degree, very kindly proof read a section of an essay I was particularly nervous about submitting.

I think that one of the biggest lessons I learnt from Simon was to write in my own words and not, as he coined it, ‘wearing a toupee’. This is something I maintained in later studies, feeling more confident using terms that I understood in the appropriate context, than attempting to throw in academic jargon to ‘sound clever’.

Simon had a wonderful and uncanny ability of using every day examples to bring a theory to life. So often his family, friends, ex-students or a TV programme he’d recently seen (namely Mad Men) would feature, but whatever he shared, it was always relatable and most often helped everything snap into place.

Simon’s wealth of knowledge was gigantic, matched only by his modesty. Despite his immense intellect, he never made you feel inferior or unable to ask him anything. He patiently waited for you to come to the conclusion, never hurrying or filling in, and his eyes would quite literally dance with excitement as you reached the answer – eagerly exclaiming ‘absolutely, absolutely’ to spur you on.

I am incredibly shocked and saddened by the news of Simon’s untimely passing, I will miss him dearly as I am sure so many other students shall too. I feel so very privileged to have been taught by such a bright, wonderful man, and I am forever grateful for all of his guidance, wisdom and support.

My Motivation

Simon was the reason I didn’t give up on my studies at Derby Uni when life was throwing every possible banana skin at me. I clearly remember him telling me that I could achieve a First Class – well beyond my wildest dreams. He kept me motivated and inspired until I did indeed achieve that First. I was so appreciative of his support that I wrote a dedication to him in my Independent Studies, and my gratitude to him will never fade. A great man, and someone whom I will never forget.

An inspiring lecturer, colleague and friend

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.

Never forgotten

Simon was, and still is a great inspiration to me and one of the best teachers. A lecturer full of passion with enormous sociological knowledge. I remember my conversations with him as a student, starting with one topic and going beyond it, opening different areas to explore and question. He helped me to believe in my abilities. I still have the picture of him sitting in his office and telling me how frustrated he was about my poor abilities in written English resulting in lower grades regardless of my sociological imagination skills. Simon spread his love towards social theory, and I will always admire him for that; for his great mind, knowledge and personality. He will not be forgotten.

I’m shocked and terribly saddened by Simon’s death. I knew him as an inspiring tutor and academic, a trusted colleague, a family man, jazz fan, comrade, and friend.

I was Simon’s colleague at the University of Derby for three years, from 2010 to 2013, and I have many fond memories of him and his family. He went above and beyond in terms of welcoming me to Derby and helping me getting settled into the job.

Simon had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of sociology, social theory and society today. I learnt a lot from him and have many fond memories of our occasionally lively discussions on these topics. From our many good humoured debates on the role of religion in society today to the relative merits of avant garde jazz, and from the “Leninist party” to the contradictions of contemporary satire, he was always thoughtful, witty and interesting.

I learnt massively and continue to be inspired by Simon’s approach to working in higher education. Though he did what was required to get along – he “played the game” as necessary – he never let that get in the way of being a great tutor and academic. He will be sorely missed.

Simon

I first came to know Simon when I taught at Derby for two years in the late 1990s. I will never forget the days we spent working together and the evenings we spent chatting till late into the night in pubs in Derby. Those were times of incredible happiness and excitement for me, and that was in no small part down to him. I know that Simon was deeply moved by the autobiographical book written by his doctoral supervisor, Gillian Rose, on her impending death from cancer in 1995 – “Love’s Work”. It is uncanny, and so very very sad, that his own life seems to have turned the same way. I will always remember him in my heart.

Simon

I first met Simon when he came to the university in 1995. He and I were part of a group of young academics who had started work in English, History and Sociology at UoD between 1993-1996. We all worked hard and played hard and I can remember Simon was a central part of all the great conversations we had. He was such a lovely person, intelligent and extremely personable with a wicked sense of humour. He worked tirelessly for all his students his whole time at UoD. I feel sure he will be sorely missed. Condolences to his family and friends. Mary McNally.