Sunday, July 20, 2008

Very Sad News

On Friday, as Sim and I were driving down to Lichfield to pick up the keys to our new house, we got a phone call from our friend Patrick – another PhD student in the department – to tell us that our lecturer Dr. Paul Fletcher had died suddenly, whilst attending a conference in Australia. It was such a shock. He had recently had a baby, May, with his partner Debs and so we’re especially thinking of both of them at the moment.

Paul was on all three of my annual panel reviews and was always incredibly supportive of me and my research. I was honoured that he spoke so highly and very fondly of me to Sim when they were both smoking out the back door of Paul’s newly acquired house, which he regularly opened up to students in order to feed them fantastic curries. He introduced Sim and me to Arvo Part, so we loved him for that. He always called Sim “Simeon,” and always asked after him. Undergraduates loved him, and there is (quite rightly) a Facebook group devoted to him. We thought he was always very well dressed.

He would begin his questions to conference speakers with an impressive oration, which the speaker would have to follow if they were to have any hope of understanding the question! He was incredibly intelligent and marvellously highbrow – no matter what the topic of conversation. I never really managed to have a “proper” conversation with him; the nearest I came was about two minutes of “baby stuff” before Debs gave birth – but then it rapidly turned into a one-to-one philosophical lecture about the nature of the necessary silence between “baby noises” and a baby’s first words! Classic.

He put a postcard of Homer J. Simpson on his door that shows a cross-section of his brain and the amount given over to thinking about donuts, which someone changed to read “Dr. Paul Fletcher.” He never looked like he ate many donuts, but then again maybe there was a secret passion we didn’t know about?

I was very shy of him, which he noticed, and he told me not to be – which didn’t really help!

During their recent house-move, Paul and Debs gave us their old vacuum cleaner – it is bright yellow, wonderfully retro, and still working okay. We said we’d send them photos and updates of how he was doing in his new surroundings, but we never did.

I looked forward to hearing Paul’s thoughts on my thesis as it began to take shape over the next few months – I’m sure it will be worse off for not having had his input.

Here's what our department put on our website:

In Memoriam

It is with great sadness and regret that the Department announces the sudden death of Dr Paul Fletcher. Paul was in Sydney, Australia participating in a conference when he had a heart attack.

A much loved colleague and friend, Paul was appointed to the Department in 1997. His research interests ranged across several fields, including Continental Philosophy, Modern Theology, and Religion and Political Theory. His teaching spanned many areas, including Christian thought, religion and film, political theology, and ethics and religion. He supervised several PhDs in areas related to such interests. Immensely popular with and highly committed to our students, his teaching regularly received high evaluations.

He made an immense contribution to the life of the Department including serving as Director of Undergraduate Studies and organising for several years the regular department research seminar series. Beyond the Department Paul's wide range of interests and engaging style brought him into contact with people across the Faculty and University.

We will miss him

I can't believe it.

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