Raingard Esser remembers Phil Ollerenshaw

I remember Phil as a great colleague with a great sense of humour, as an academic teacher, for whom the care and nurturing of students stood at the heart of his work, and as a dedicated researcher, who took his profound scholarship lightly. I remember very well two scenes capturing these characteristics. The first centres on a presentation that I gave to colleagues about a research project that I was pursuing at the time. It was Phil, who, politely and reassuringly asked what, in a less supportive environment, could have been the intellectual ‘killer question’. The study became a much better book in consequence of his intervention. The second event initiated by Phil also had a profound impact on my future. When I was invited for interview at the University of Groningen, he organized a mock interview with colleagues, which, although making me feel terribly embarrassed, helped me focus my presentation and also took care of such seemingly mundane items as the font size of my Powerpoints. And I never forget that he came round to see whether I was OK after the sudden death of my husband, our colleague Trevor Johnson. He was then Head of Department, and it is such a telling mark of his sense of duty, but also a sign of his warmth and compassion that he paid me this visit. I am very grateful to have known him.

1 thought on “Raingard Esser remembers Phil Ollerenshaw”

  1. So much of what Kent, Raingard, and Nick have said strikes chords with me. Between 1992 and 2003 I was lucky enough to work with Phil Ollerenshaw, one of a tremendous group of UWE History colleagues. When I see him in my mind’s eye, he’s grinning or gently raising an eyebrow at some daft comment I’d made or at some nonsensical paperwork we had to file. He was certainly great to work with – unfussy and incisive, light-hearted but thoughtful, and ever generous with his time. He was also great fun. It’s thanks to him that I know anything about business history – “Always look at their cheque books” I remember him saying, about rugby league (which I still don’t quite get), and about which pint went nicely with a Hamlet. I didn’t teach alongside him but he gave such good advice about course materials, making seminars work, and student welfare that I still feel like I did. I was delighted when he agreed to be an external examiner at Exeter, my current University. He made lengthy exam boards go that little bit quicker but he was first to spot any hint of inconsistency or unfairness. That was Phil for me: terrific company and always ready to smile, his erudition and professionalism worn lightly. He was a wonderful man.

    Martin Thomas

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