Colleagues, friends and family gathered at the Lakeside Conference Centre on Friday (1 October) for a lunchtime reception to mark Keith Thomas’ retirement after a whopping 31 years of service to the University.
Aston’s former Director of Human Resources began his career in the NHS where he embarked on the NHS national graduate training scheme. The scheme mixed academic input from the Manchester Business School with practical experience and saw placed Keith at Dudley Road Hospital where he undertook a variety of tasks as part of the scheme. Keith fondly remembers the time when observing a varicose vein strip in theatre, the Consultant Surgeon spotted him and bellowed, “Don’t just stand there boy – hold this leg” - happy days!
It was during that time that Keith decided to specialise in personnel and landed a junior role at Good Hope Hospital before moving to Aston University in 1977.
Over his 31 years Keith has seen the University go through huge changes. Perhaps one of his most difficult and challenging times was in the early 80s when the University Grants Committee (precursor to HEFCE) cut one third of Aston’s grant and the University had to shed many jobs. One of his initiatives that he is most proud of is what could be described as his ‘legacy’ – the creation of the staff volunteering scheme – the first project of which is to take place on 4 – 5 November.
Chief Operating Officer, Richard Middleton talked about Keith’s career at the event: ‘you have been described by those here today as one of the best of bosses, a great mate and a true friend. You can look back on years of successful contribution to the University, to the support of colleagues and of students.’
Keith said: ‘I would like to pay tribute to all the HR staff I have worked with over 31 years; it’s been a pleasure and a privilege. To the current team I say walk tall and be proud of what you do.’
At the end of his speech Keith finished with a quote from what he describes as ‘that leading 20th century philosopher and observer of life – Snoopy.’
‘”Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and just stay together. I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves and then we have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. I know what I need, I need more hellos.”’
Keith will be greatly missed by colleagues and we look forward to saying hello to Keith when we next meet him, not goodbye. Aspects wishes him all the best for his retirement!
Words by Louise Russell