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Kevin Stagg


Writing an obituary for our much missed and loved colleague and friend, Kevin Stagg, who died on the 26th of November 2022 begs a question: I wonder what Kevin would have thought of his official Cardiff University obituary? This is a rhetorical question: I know exactly what Kev would have made of his own official obituary and it’s probably not printable. But here goes.

Kevin was born into a military family – his father was a senior and decorated (an MBE and CBE) Royal Air Force engineer. For much of his formative life, Kevin and his two sisters lived in various parts of the country, including a stint in Cyprus. Eventually, the Staggs settled in Devon. By the late 70s, Kevin was headed for the University of Kent to study for an English degree but he did not complete his undergraduate studies. Instead, he took up various jobs and lived as part of an alternative community where he was the acting chef, specialising in vegetarian cooking. Kevin from a young age was a committed vegetarian and a vegan way before it became trendy to be one. During this time living in a community, Kevin and his then-partner, Jane, had a daughter, Elvi – someone that Kevin remained close to and intensely proud of throughout his life.

A great reader, Kevin decided in the early 90s to study for a history degree. His undoubted intelligence and intellect enabled Kevin to gain a place as a mature student in his thirties at Cardiff University through the History Department’s access scheme. (Kevin never forgot the opportunity given to him by the History Department and he remained committed to widening access when he became Senior Admissions tutor at Cardiff Business School.) Kevin demonstrated a real flair for history and ended up gaining a first-class degree. From there he went on to study for a PhD in cultural history researching the history of disability.

Whilst still doing a PhD, Kevin landed his first academic job as a researcher at the University of Glamorgan. He showed here qualities that he would retain for his entire academic career: a real work ethic and an ability to handle different demands and workloads. By the new millennium, Kevin looked to his alma mater for new job openings, being appointed as a Teaching Assistant at Cardiff Business School (CARBS) in the Economics Section. His role here was to help Professor Derek Matthews who taught the Economic History module which remains compulsory on the economics programmes today. Whilst working as a Teaching Assistant, Kevin completed and was awarded his PhD in the School of History – a great achievement considering the demands of caring for a young family and of new teaching duties.

For a number of years at CARBS, Kevin was employed on various temporary, fixed-term contracts. But it was evident to all that knew him that Kevin was an excellent historian who helped develop the economic history curriculum in the undergraduate economics programme. He was a brilliant and engaging lecturer, very popular with students and was eventually appointed to a permanent Teaching & Scholarship lectureship – thanks in part to the support of Prof. Patrick Minford.

With the creation of new administrative academic roles in CARBS, Kevin applied and was appointed to one of the most important of these new positions: that of Director of Recruitment for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He did this hugely complex job whilst still teaching a number of modules. Kevin spent an inordinate amount of time on admissions duties for the Business School (and beyond). Some of his work involved travelling to China and East Africa to meet admissions agents and university officials. For someone who was a vegan, these international trips could prove challenging. But Kevin took it all in his stride.  He developed a strong working relationship with the admissions team at CARBS and the wider University – these colleagues enjoyed his sense of humour and found his honesty (and at times bluntness) refreshing. Kevin was also a great support to and worked closely with, the other admissions tutors in CARBS, especially Dr Louise Macniven. The work that the likes of Kevin and Louise have done on admissions is vital but can go unappreciated and overlooked by the wider faculty. But Kevin and his colleagues, like Louise, have proved to be real unsung heroes of the School. His achievements as a teacher and senior academic administrator did not go unnoticed and Kevin was awarded with a promotion to the position of Senior Lecturer.

One of the things that marked out Kevin as a colleague is that he was always present in the Aberconway building – where he enjoyed working, drinking coffee (a story in itself), and headphones on. If Aberconway was open – he would be found in his room D06 on the third floor, door open and welcoming to all. Being a popular individual Kevin had many visitors – many of them his students; he held the role of Personal Tutor to over 100 Joint Honours students – an astounding feat in itself. Kevin was popular with staff too and thrived on the varied conversations they would bring him. These were more than colleagues; they were his friends and his ‘family’.

Kevin could often be found with his closest friend, Dr Mike Marinetto, who would often call by; it goes without saying that professionality and duties to work were always present – but laughter was abound and the third-floor corridor became alight when they were together. Kev had a great affection for Mike and this was reciprocated without doubt; their true friendship and loyalty to each other warranted memorialisation here.

His former Head of Section and co-teacher on economic history modules, Prof. Trevor Boynes, said: ‘Kevin always kept his door open, and I would regularly stop and have a chat with him on my way to my office on D corridor. What I will miss is his sense of humour and our regular banter about students, the university, and life in general…I appreciated the depth of his knowledge and his sense of professionalism.’ Up until the last years of his life at CARBS, Kevin cheerfully took on much administrative work with admissions and then Deputy Head for Teaching & Learning. He quietly got on with the necessary work that underpinned all that we in the Section and School take for granted.

Kevin was a straight talker; he could appear stern when he needed to be (with unique but often hilarious ways of expression), but this was a disguise as underneath laid quite a shy man who was full of fun and extremely playful. His playfulness became apparent when he would play ‘tricks’ on his colleagues – there are far too many to note here - a book on Yugoslavia and a missing lightbulb reveal just the start of a long list. Suffice to say Kevin’s naughty grin always gave the game away that he had been up to something, and indeed, he relished the thought of the playful payback that would inevitably come.

Kevin was an extremely kind man and brought many gifts from his recruitment travels for his friends – there is many a toy panda within the Aberconway building and beyond. Striving to keep the admissions team energised during stressful Confirmation and Clearing periods, Kevin would, early morning, take steps to fill their office with boxes and boxes of confectionery – far too much for normal consumption but always bringing a smile and cheer to what he saw as his most valuable team.

One of Kevin’s great interests outside of history and his work was music. As a teenager growing up in the 70s, he became a fan of David Bowie and was an eager follower of the post-punk music scene. He saw Joy Division and New Order live, as well as The Smiths in the mid-80s – on no less than two occasions. He even fronted his own post-punk electronic outfit, performing lead vocals and keyboard work. Although Kevin, like any modern music fan, liked to stream music, one of his great passions was collecting music and visiting record shops not only in Cardiff but different parts of the country – from Falmouth to Leeds to Manchester. At one point he did entertain the possibility of doing some research on the economics of the record shop. By the time he was living in Cardiff, he was also regularly attending concerts and by far his favourite live band was The Fall, which he saw live on four occasions.  The Fall was notorious for its high turnover of band members which had something to do with Mark E. Smith, the band’s irascible, uncompromising and outspoken lead singer.  Sellotaped on Kevin’s D06 office door in the Aberconway is a quote from Mark E. Smith: ‘If it's me and yer granny on bongos, it's the Fall’. In a similar way, over a twenty-plus year career at CARBS, Kevin came to have a similarly central presence and role within the Economics Section and the Business School.

The COVID lockdowns impacted Kevin’s life and health. As someone who lived alone, Kevin missed the regular schedule of a work routine, of travelling to work and mixing with colleagues and friends. As a result, his already ailing health began to deteriorate – Kevin became collateral damage in the fight against COVID. He never recovered properly.

In his last few weeks, Kevin’s CARBS friends were regularly by his side, to surround him once again with the laughter, joy and love that he was used to. We knew that Kevin would not want this any other way, likewise, he would not like this read or his memory recalled with any sadness or fuss. Kevin knew we were there and we knew he was listening and enjoying the comfort his loving daughter, Elvi, his family and CARBS friends brought to him. Kev knew how much he was, and is, loved.

Kevin Stagg will always be sorely and greatly missed.

Mike Marinetto and Louise Macniven

Those who knew Kevin are encouraged to share their memories and condolences on this dedicated webpage: