Denise Lievesley remembers Uwe Kitzinger

Uwe Kitzinger seated in boardroom

A memorial service was held for founding President of Templeton College Dr Uwe Kitzinger (1928 – 2023) at New College on Saturday 1 June 2024. Honorary Fellow and immediate past-Principal Professor Denise Lievesley offered her reflections on Uwe and his relationship with college.

Denise Lievesley

I am extremely honoured to speak about Uwe’s roles and influence at Templeton College and later at the merged Green Templeton College. Uwe was recruited from his leadership at INSEAD Business School in France to be the Director of what was, then, the Oxford Centre for Management Studies. Apart from the attraction of Oxford, which was home to him, he valued the bridging of the academic and practitioner worlds for which the centre was known. However once appointed Uwe encountered a significant financial shortfall and had the unenviable role of ensuring that the implications of the deficit were understood. His important legacy is that he did not shy away from addressing these issues. He transformed the financial performance and influence of the Centre and subsequently Templeton College through a growth in academic staff and support staff (notably people of quality) funded by an increase in executive education programmes, with an associated increase in the number of students. Desmond Graves in his book on the Oxford Centre for Management studies reports that executive income increased eight-fold under Uwe’s Presidency. This is in addition to the crucial endowment from Sir John Templeton which Uwe achieved by building a strong and very personal relationship with Sir John.

It is no exaggeration to say that Templeton College and therefore Green Templeton College would not have existed were it not for Uwe’s dogged perseverance in resolving the financial problems and in securing its place in the Oxford University structure. He is rightly held in high regard because of this.

There are many wonderful stories from this time. Uwe was advised that one way to raise funds was to give lectures on cruises – not really his scene as he preferred sailing his own boat – I gather that this attempt at fund raising didn’t always go to plan as Stephen Barclay tells of being on a CEO cruise for which Uwe was a guest speaker when one of the USA right wingers got up and suggested Uwe be thrown overboard for the comments he had made in his talk!

Uwe was elected Honorary Fellow of Green Templeton College when it was founded. Uwe’s relationship with college took a new turn in 2015 when, a few days before Sheila died, he offered support for a series of events to facilitate international research designed to lead to evidence-based medical, legal and social change. Thus the Sheila Kitzinger Programme at GTC was born.

Uwe and his daughters were fully involved from the start. He sat on the Steering Group, continuing to join meetings by zoom during the COVID period. He was always keen to emphasize that the programme should build on Sheila’s legacy and interests, rather than looking backwards. It launched with a research seminar curated by the then President of the Royal College of Midwives which led to a report of Green Templeton College and King’s College London reviewing the benefits of continuity of midwife care for women, their families and more broadly the National Health Service. This set the standard for subsequent events – that they should focus on linking research to impact (in accordance with Uwe’s own philosophy I referred to earlier) and he was very proud whenever we could demonstrate an effect on policy. He always championed the under-served in society.

Uwe would often be asked to introduce Sheila Kitzinger Programme activities by explaining some of the history – of Sheila, of himself and of Green Templeton College. He always relished telling stories, such as how Sheila would illustrate various positions for giving birth at conferences sometimes to the discomfort of the original audiences. At one event he worked with the college to set-up an impromptu exhibition of Sheila’s art. Who could say no to Uwe even if the request was unusual! Uwe had loaded his car and the team walked the various paintings across the gardens and into the Dining Hall where they were displayed on the backs of chairs. At one point Uwe was sitting under a tree in the garden surrounded by Sheila’s art in-transit looking very content with the rather incongruous situation he had conjured. It was a measure of Uwe’s ability to connect with everyone and appreciate how they contributed to success that made the administrative team embrace his ideas and go the extra mile. I was fascinated but not surprised to learn that some years earlier he had invited even quite junior members of staff to his splendid farewell at Templeton College.

His phenomenal intellect and wit might have made him a formidable member of college but this was far from the case. He was irreverent. It was important to see the twinkle in his eye. He had a long standing tease with me and my colleagues that he would use the dumb waiter to get to the Common Room when he could no longer manage the stairs. He loved interacting with the college community, always making himself available to students and fellows particularly those interested in European affairs. I recall many meals in college in the period leading up to the Brexit referendum when he would spend time patiently explaining the history and importance of the UK’s relationship to Europe. That ability to continue to connect with new generations of scholars shone through in the last Foundation Dinner at GTC before COVID. The marquees were set-up in our beautiful gardens, and we hosted fellows and guests including Uwe and Rosie to a fantastic formal dinner. Uwe was seated next to the outgoing GCR President, who was an MBA student and valued the Templeton College heritage. They obviously delighted each other and were engrossed in conversation all evening.

A few years ago Uwe was in a home for the elderly for a short while. Roland and I visited him there to find him holding court in his own room surrounded by wonderful exotic foods provided by Rosie. We were about to go on holiday to Morocco so we asked if he would like us to bring a gift back. I expected a request for a middle eastern sweetmeat but instead he asked for a kaftan. We are very proud that thereafter Uwe seemed to live in his kaftan from Marrakesh and his business suit was abandoned.

There is no doubt that Uwe is missed, but that we are all richer from having known him.

Watch Denise

Created: 18 June 2024