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Professor Tom Keenoy


Professor Tom Keenoy
Professor Tom Keenoy

It is with deep sadness that Cardiff Business School learnt of the untimely death of Professor Tom Keenoy on 15 January 2019.

This sadness will also be felt by Tom’s former colleagues, students and friends in King’s College, London, the University of Leicester, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and the University of Wollongong.

Tom was a scholar. In his life and work he exemplified the virtues of engagement, commitment and learning throughout everything he did and said. Everyone who came into contact with him knew that they would be a better person as a result of the experience of interacting with such a thoughtful and perspicacious guy. Although he didn’t suffer fools gladly, Tom radiated that inner warmth and understanding that only comes from somebody who is deeply embedded in the intellectual traditions and debates which helped make him.

He graduated with a 1st Class Honours, B.A. (Administration), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 1967, followed by a D.Phil. (Oxon.), Brasenose College, University of Oxford.

A series of appointments in the National Board for Prices and Incomes and the Office of Manpower Economics, the Commission on Industrial Relations and the Pay Board were followed by his appointment as a Lecturer, Department of Industrial Relations and Management Studies, University College, Cardiff in 1972.

He became a lecturer in Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University in 1988. In 1995 he was appointed as a Lecturer at The Management Centre, King’s College, London, followed by internal promotions to Senior Lecturer and Reader in 1997. In 2005, Tom became Professor of Management, University of Leicester and Emeritus Professor, University of Leicester in 2008. In 2008, he returned to Cardiff Business School as an Honorary Professor. He held a series of visiting appointments in the University of Wollongong, the National Institute for Working Life, Sweden, and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.

In his research, writing and teaching Tom effortlessly combined a breadth of interest and depth of learning which encompassed social movements such as Solidarity, Japanese management practices in Malaya, the emergence of ‘human resource management’ as a powerful discursive hologram and employment relations in Australia. He was a founding member and co-director of the International Centre for Research in Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change in which he played a pivotal role in promoting a ‘discourse analysis’ approach to the study of social and organizational life.

However, Tom inhabited a hinterland beyond his academic work where he engaged with his wider concerns about the quality of life in twenty first century societies characterized by growing economic inequality, social division and political polarization. This was exemplified in his study – along with Peter Anthony, Len Arthur, Russell Smith and Molly Scott Cato – of the changing character of management and work organization at the Tower Colliery in South Wales. Their research on Tower Colliery demonstrated Tom’s unerring capacity to connect ‘public issues’ with ‘personal troubles’ in a way that would have made C Wright Mills proud of him.

Besides his own achievements, throughout his career, Tom showed an active and selfless interest in the work of others. So many colleagues can trace their successes back to decisions they talked through with Tom. He was such a wise and caring mentor who provided sharp insight and frank advice in equal measure.

Tom is survived by his beloved wife, Judy, and children Kevin and Maeve. All of us who were lucky enough to know him will never forget him.  

Mike Reed, Professor of Organisational Studies at Cardiff Business School.