When I started this Blog, I never for a moment expected to be writing two obituaries for colleagues I’d met through Renaisi within three months of each other. My good friend and colleague John Chapman passed away on the 24th June 2009 following the diagnosis of lung cancer six months previously. John and I met through the Renewal Academy programme hosted by Renaisi and worked together for three years designing and delivering a significant part of the Skills for Neighbourhood Renewal Programme.
The nature of my work means I come across thousands of people, yet very few have touched me or had as much impact on me as John did. On our first meeting some years ago I found him with little to say, looking slightly uncomfortable with the prospect of working with someone he knew nothing about. Many people who knew John only superficially made the mistake of underestimating him, not recognising his ability as an extraordinarily gifted teacher, thinker, and intellectual. Any reservations about John I might have had disappeared the first time I saw him in front of a class. He suddenly became animated, passionate and won the respect and admiration of students within minutes of his opening remarks. He won my respect instantly, and never lost it. I learned so much from John. He brought learning alive and the time I spent with him as a co-tutor, designing and delivering training around the country was without a doubt the most rewarding period of my career as a trainer.
But it was as my friend I valued John most. Despite us appearing to have very little in common, we were soul mates in many ways. I ridiculed John on one of our very early training programmes together as he turned up clutching a great pile of slippery OHP slides as I plugged in my PC and loaded up the PowerPoint presentation. The slides never made an appearance after that. He became the PowerPoint King stretching the technology to its limit. I recall one evening in a hotel room over a few beers we spent hours trying to figure out how to make an arrow spin in a presentation to illustrate the concept of project cycle management. Into the small hours with the job done, we were like two small children conquering the final stage of a challenging video game. We could never understand why the next day, students were so utterly unmoved by our technological prowess. The arrow looked great though!
I last saw John in St James hospital on Father’s day with his family around him. Though obviously uncomfortable, he never for a moment bemoaned his fate and I am left with such admiration for how magnificently he dealt with his condition and the dignity he preserved throughout his last days. We talked about photography, something John immersed himself in his last few months to help cope with his condition. We had already had one very early morning photo shoot together, and we talked about the next one. I think he knew that there wouldn’t be another one but it was so like John not to let on. The world is a much poorer place without John Chapman and I will forever consider myself privileged to have spent albeit too short a time with him. Rest in peace my old friend.