It was with great sadness that Cardiff Business School learnt of the untimely death of Neil Wellard on 27 February 2020.
Neil was a scientist by training having achieved both a first class degree at the University of Kent and a PhD from Manchester in Physics, and the scrupulous and methodical approach of the scientist was something he continued to apply throughout his career as a management academic.
Early commercial work with leading technology-based firms including Philips and chip-maker Inmos led to a move into management consultancy, and from there into management scholarship. He spent fifteen years teaching in Newport and Swansea, including six years leading Newport’s Centre for Learning Development, before joining Cardiff University in 2008.
An emphasis on learning development is something that Neil continued to apply throughout his time with us at the Cardiff Business School. He was genuinely dedicated to giving students the best learning experience that they could have. That was demonstrated through the nature and quality of his classes, through his early adoption of new learning technologies, and through his tendency to forensically cross-examine planned changes to the curriculum or teaching arrangements to make sure they didn’t contain hidden pitfalls that might disadvantage any students.
Whether as a teacher, a supervisor or as Chair of an Exam Board, Neil was always dedicated to seeing students succeed. His delight at rescuing one MSc student that most others (including the student themselves) had given up on, through strong and supportive dissertation supervision, is something I remember clearly.
He was also a truly generous colleague who was always willing to help others, despite frequently carrying a heavy workload himself. Several of the first reports I heard about Neil, before I really got to know him myself, were from colleagues reporting something along the lines of ‘It’s OK, Neil stepped in and rescued the situation’. Neil was always a staunch supporter of colleagues and was the one to approach for sensible, thoughtful advice.
Neil also had a gruff sense of humour that will be missed by his colleagues both within the Marketing and Strategy Section and wider across Cardiff Business School.
He was often exasperated by some of the bits of bureaucracy that are an inescapable part of contemporary business school life, especially if he felt they weren’t adding value to students’ education. But he could be both funny and insightful when expressing that exasperation.
Neil also had a great love of classical music, often attending orchestral concerts at St David’s Hall and opera at the Wales Millennium Centre, and always happy to talk about the Cardiff Singer of the World contest.
His contribution went beyond Cardiff Business School as well. He was an ambassador for the School’s public value purpose before we had formalised our strategy.
As I got to know him, I was impressed by the way that he took his business expertise out into the community to help others. This included his work helping disadvantaged groups such as the homeless or refugees to realise their potential through entrepreneurship, and his work supporting the University’s Grangetown Community Gateway project through contributions to the Grangetown Gardens Pavillion Project and the Grangetown Business Forum.
His work with the refugees also informed pedagogical contributions on entrepreneurialism with Neil presenting papers at recent workshops in the USA and Germany. Through this work he led the way in showing how involving students in real-life community projects can provide excellent learning opportunities whilst also delivering practical benefits for the local community.
Neil’s concern for others was not restricted to community members, colleagues and students. For example, he set-up a charity to save retired battery hens from slaughter. He often drove across the UK to collect birds, which he brought back to his own garden to house before moving them onto new owners. This had benefits that went far beyond the welfare of the hens - for some lucky colleagues a morning meeting with Neil was accompanied with a nice box of fresh eggs and a detailed discussion of animal husbandry.
Neil’s welfare concerns were not restricted to retired battery hens – he recently joined several hardy neighbours in saving a flock of local ducks from being eaten by a hungry fox. When he returned to work after his weekend of duck saving it was abundantly clear, from his bandaged ankles, that Neil had joined the ducks in the pond during the rescue.
Perhaps even less well known was Neil’s love of cheese making. As one colleague remarked: “Neil presented me with a slab of cheese one Christmas, which was smooth and delicious – the whole family was blown away with how good it was”.
Quietly talented and always caring is how he’ll be remembered here. Perhaps his last act in work was to join a colleague in starting an outreach programme with the Wallich and the Homeless World Cup legacy team in supporting players from the Welsh football team, helping them build a better future for themselves.
As a dedicated teacher, a generous colleague and someone who built some important bridges between the School and the community, Neil will be much missed.