Written by Ronnie Rowlands.
The news of the death of John Hadfield on September 1st came as a great shock. John had been a regular fixture of the university’s decision-making bodies for a number of years, culminating in his service as Deputy Pro-Chancellor of the University.
He was never an especially public figure within the university, but anybody who has held a senior post or served on our highest decision-making bodies will remember John as a gravelly, no-nonsense northerner, whose occasional involvement in unpopular institutional decisions was offset by a common touch that radiated personal conviction in what he was doing.
John was particularly popular among Students’ Union officers. His oft stated philosophy was that, at the heart of everything, ‘it’s about the students. Always ‘as been, always will be.’ It was only ill health that led to his resignation from LUSU’s trustee board, his final post within the university. From 2014 to 2015, I served as a full-time officer of the Students’ Union, and will always remember when John openly sided with the students when the University Council voted to increase rents and postgraduate tuition fees.
At one meeting, I directed an uninterrupted ten minute tirade over the matter at the then University Secretary Fiona Aiken. At the end of it, she turned to John and said, ‘I’m sure, John, that as a representative of Council you’ll be happy to explain their rationale in taking this decision?’ Arms folded, and barely concealing his complete support for the student body’s dissent, he shook his head; ‘Nope. I won’t.’ The University Secretary was taken aback. It was a rare instance of disunity among the top table, and an action by which I shall always favourably judge John Hadfield.
This continued to the 2015 meeting of the University Court, chaired by John, which famously marked a rare instance of a Students’ Union motion being carried by the meeting. The room moved in our favour after a rambling, inarticulate and ill-advised interjection against the motion by a lay member of the Court. After the meeting, while the Vice-Chancellor and others seethed, John joined me and my colleagues for a cigarette. ‘Wharra’n absolute plonker – ‘e won you the debate the second ‘e opened his gob. Nice one!’
The subtext collective welcomes letters from anybody wishing to share their memories of John Hadfield.