I’m really looking forward to writing about three people who have inspired me in my life.
The first is Baron Wilson of Dinton who until recently was Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where I studied.
I became President of the college Students’ Union shortly before Richard Wilson joined us. I confess that I hadn’t heard of him- in fact many of us thought that it was the ‘One Foot in the Grave’ actor who was going to be the new Head of our College!
Emmanuel (or Emma, as we call it) is a really close-knit community. It is known at the University as being ‘the friendly college’ and as such the choice of Master makes a real difference. As soon as he arrived I remember a real buzz about the place. What struck me most was how everyone seemed to like him instantly, from the senior Fellows of the College to other workers at the college like the cleaning staff. When I met him myself, I instantly found him so friendly and warm. I tried to go out of my way to make him feel comfortable- he hardly needed my help as he had just come from running the Civil Service, but I thought that it would still be nice to have people around him to make it obvious they were happy he had decided to come and join us.
The more I got to know him, the more I admired him. It was the little things- the way he remembered to say thank you when I helped him out with something small; the way he so obviously cared about the students- not many Masters run DVD nights in exam term! The way he always seemed to have time for people, was so wise and while he clearly had a brain the size of a planet I never once heard him show off about anything, never once did I see him belittle someone else or criticize. Despite such an incredible career, he never boasted about what he had done and he gave me the impression that he thought he had led a lucky life.
Two pieces of personal kindness stood out for me. The first was when he and his lovely wife invited my family to the Master’s Lodge for tea when they were up visiting me. I was so tempted to tell my Dad that when the Master said a certain word that the protocol was to bow! The second was that when I graduated from the University, he gave me a small gift to mark the occasion. Considering the range of matters that he must have had to deal with, running one of the foremost academic institutions in the country, he always seemed to have time for me and for everyone.
I will take the lessons I have picked up from him through my career and through my life. I don’t think I will ever be half the man he is in any sense but just by his example he’s helped me so much so far. For example, sometimes I don’t tolerate rudeness in my professional life because I think that if Richard could be so accomplished and also so nice, it shouldn’t be a chore for anyone else!