Obituary: Mark Anthony John Goodwin: 9 August 1960 – 25 August 2018

Posted by rmt22 at Sep 19, 2018 02:33 PM |
BSc Biological Sciences, BA Psychology, PGCE, MA Education, PhD Faculty of Medicine.
Obituary: Mark Anthony John Goodwin: 9 August 1960 – 25 August 2018

Mark in Ethiopia, typically not letting a bit of rain dampen his spirits. Photograph courtesy of Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison

It is with great sadness that we write of the sudden and premature death from natural causes of our colleague, Mark Goodwin on the 24th August 2018. This tribute is written on behalf of friends and colleagues at the University of Leicester and focusses on his many and valued contributions to academic life.

Mark was an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Genetics & Genome Biology at the University of Leicester. Mark originated from Malmesbury in Wiltshire. He graduated from the University of Leicester in 1981, obtaining a degree in Biological Sciences, where he also completed his PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology with the late Marjory England in 1987. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, a member of the Genetics Society, a member of the British Psychological Society, and a Senior Fellow and Academic Associate of the Higher Education Academy. While remaining passionate about his subject of Biology, Mark was first and foremost, and educator as illustrated by his several qualifications and publications in pedagogy and educational psychology that included a BA in Psychology from the Open University, and an MA in Education from the University of Durham.

Before joining the Department of Genetics in 2006 he held various posts at the Open University between 1989 and 2005 and before that spent two years as a Scientific Officer in the UK Government’s Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute managing projects on food security and sustainable development; a thread that ran through the rest of his career. This less conventional path to an academic position gave Mark a wonderful appreciation of, and empathy with, the purpose of higher education, and the journey of the students from admission to their life after graduation. It is for his impact on the staff and students and the educational programmes that he will be most remembered.

Mark’s was originally appointed in Leicester as a member of the GENIE (Genetics Education Networking for Innovation and Excellence). GENIE was established as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) by the late Professor Annette Cashmore when she was Head of the Department, with the aims of disseminating an understanding of science beyond academia, promoting public awareness of science and widening participation in science education. Mark input was key to these activities and this was reflected in his research interests which included promoting higher education in developing countries as detailed later. He also led the development of the Virtual Genetics Education Centre (VGEC); a collection of open educational resources in genetics, molecular biology and related topics, including bioethics, aimed at an international audience of educators in higher education, schools and the health professions. Mark was also passionate about bioethics and developed teaching programmes within the undergraduate programmes in medicine and the biosciences that have also been used with a range of audiences as part of public engagement initiatives.

Within the College of Life Sciences, Mark was Chair of the Recruitment, Admissions and Widening Participation Committee and Director of Recruitment, Retention and Employability. In this role he led recruitment to the Undergraduate and Foundation Degree Programmes in Biological Sciences. Student Recruitment had just finished with Clearing ending in the week of Mark’s death. With Mark’s capable guidance the Biological Sciences course had achieved its recruitment targets of around 300 students; no mean feat at a time of reduced numbers of 18-year olds and increasing competition. Phil Baker, the Head of the College of Life Sciences, who had spoken to Mark earlier on the day he died to congratulate him on this achievement, described Mark as, “an outstanding colleague who brought so much to the college; I will always remember him for his can-do attitude whenever faced with a challenge. He is massively missed.”

Jo Williams, who, as a member of the Biological Sciences School office worked closely with Mark on student recruitment described Mark as “A much-valued colleague and friend, Mark’s knowledge, compassion and humour will be sadly missed by all who had the privilege to work and know him.” His fellow academic Sinéad Drea said, “as a colleague, his consistent enthusiasm, optimism and pragmatism were unique and so reassuring to anyone lucky enough to work with him”

Mark also led the Student Intentions Programme; an innovative scheme that engaged the Leicester students from week one to promote student engagement with opportunities to gain additional experience, aimed at enhancing their employability and helping them to focus on career choices.

Recently Mark had been working with departmental colleagues Pat Heslop-Harrison and Sandra Beleza to provide educational programmes to two international research projects into crop sustainability (Pat) and infectious disease (Sandra). He had visited Ethiopia with Pat and colleagues on several occasions, and he had only recently returned from a visit to Cape Verde with Sandra and her team to meet the local collaborators. The photo shows Mark in typical form in Ethiopia.

Pat commented “In our current joint project on Abyssinian banana ……. Mark, as co-Investigator, has been ensuring we go far beyond scientific goals towards building a group of collaborative stakeholders – including HEIs and established agricultural research organisations. Through Mark’s expertise, we could ensure our research aims were kept close to the agriculture, environmental, social and economic development issues……”.

Mark’s commitment to higher education in developing countries was extensive He worked on the development of leadership, research and teaching capacity with Universities in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and is typified by his work in Gondar, Ethiopia. He led the Leicester-Gondar University Link, and managed the Leicester-Gondar PhD Programme, which developed collaborative projects involving UK and Ethiopian academics to build a sustainable research capacity at the University of Gondar. Research topics included the genetics of Ethiopian crops, drug-resistant TB, and women’s reproductive health.

Mike Silverman, who founded and chairs the Leicester-Gondar Link commented as follows. “Mark became captivated by Ethiopia 10 years ago, as he took the lead in the partnership between our University in Leicester and Gondar University. He helped to transform what had been a purely health-based link into one which also encompassed the two Universities. His initial involvement was to establish and run a joint PhD programme, which allowed able academics in the recently established Gondar University, who had never previously had the opportunity to do so, to register and complete part-time PhD Degrees, underwritten by Leicester. The PG students spent periods of time in Leicester while conducting their research in context, in Ethiopia. It was a true partnership, sponsored and supervised jointly, which has led to continued academic collaboration between the two universities, and more widely in Ethiopia. Mark shepherded, advised and encouraged the students, their supervisors and mentors with patience, care and quiet persuasiveness.

Mark was motivated by concern for the quality and relevance of academic practice. Very soon after first visiting Gondar, Mark quickly made a personal impact on Ethiopian university teaching after a chance meeting with a member of an unlikely department - Tourism Management. At Mark's instigation, their joint research into graduate work destinations, lead not only to publications but also directly to a national conference in Ethiopia questioning the relevance of undergraduate curricula to future graduate employment.

Mike paid tribute to Mark by saying, “Mark was a special person - exceptional for his calm, considerate and considered dealings, fully committed to the task in hand and above all a lovely person.”

Not content with these many roles Mark was also a member of the University of Leicester Student Recruitment, Admissions and Widening Participation Committee, the Travelling Scholarships Panel and the Programme Board for Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Professional Practice. In the latter role he gave generously of his time in supporting academic colleagues seeking educational qualifications.

Externally Mark was Content Lead for the British Council International Strategic Partnerships in HE Project (Bangladesh) and Vice-Chair of Council at Newman University. He was appointed to Newman University’s Council as an external council member in 2012 and throughout his time with the Council he was also a member of the Audit and Nominations Committees. In 2015 the Council elected him to become the Vice-Chair and in 2016 was appointed him as a member of the Search Committee to recruitment a new Vice-Chancellor for Newman. Andrea Bolshaw, the Registrar of Newman University wrote, “His dedication to Newman University and its mission has been invaluable. Colleagues at Newman who were privileged to work with Mark remember him with great fondness, as a thoughtful contributor to Council, wise and insightful beyond his years, steadfast in his values. He was a delightful man who will be missed enormously.”

Many people at the University of Leicester have paid tribute to Mark for his contributions to a wide range of academic activities but it is as a colleague and friend that most have commented, reflecting the warmth and high regard in which he was held by all.

Colin Hewitt, the Head of the School of Biological Sciences stated “Mark was so many things to us, a generous, positive colleague, a talented teacher, an academic with so many interests and a true friend. The School is numbed by his sudden loss so young.”

Pat Heslop-Harrison wrote his personal obituary: “I will certainly miss discussions with Mark about wider issues of ethics, music and arts, global culture and history. He was truly a great friend, and one I could always rely upon. I know he will be missed by his many students and collaborators throughout the world. Mark was taken from us far too early, but his contributions will live on through his huge impact to both research application and implementation, the development of higher education structures internationally, research evaluation and pedagogy, teaching in the UK and abroad, and the delivery of the projects for development.”

Cas Kramer, who joined the University with Mark as part of the GENIE team said, “Mark was a good orator and writer and an excellent editor. He always enjoyed marking student assessments and editing his own or other people’s work; and when doing so he was very generous with his time. Mark loved pencils. He definitely preferred using a pencil, always perfectly sharpened of course, over a red pen when marking essays and exams. His meticulous editing was done, very neatly and very precisely, in pencil, in order to always be able to correct himself. His marking and editing skills and the pride and joy of correcting language will be sorely missed by many of his colleagues.”

I was awed by seeing Marks diary log and “to do” lists, which were kept meticulously, with no corrections, and – most impressively – his monthly “to do” lists were all marked as “done”. I just wish I had a small part of his ability to be so organised and efficient.

I speak for us all by saying that Mark’s sad and sudden loss is affecting so many people, staff and students, at Leicester and around the world, very deeply. He was greatly valued as a colleague, a source of sage advice and someone who always made you feel better for speaking to him. We shall all miss his wise council and cheerful character.

Mark is succeded by his wife Angela, his daughter Ellen and son Henry and by his parents.

Professor Alison Goodall, Head of Department of Genetics & Genome Biology, University of Leicester.


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