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Grey, C. Simpson, P. (2019). Robert French (1949-2018). Organ. Soc. Dyn., 19(2):286-288.

(2019). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 19(2):286-288


Robert French (1949-2018)

Christopher Grey and Peter Simpson

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Robert French in January 2018 as the result of a brain tumour. Robert made significant contributions to a wide variety of debates in the psychodynamic study of organisations as well as leadership, group processes, friendship in organisation, and management education, some of which appeared in this journal (e.g., Simpson & French, 2001).

Robert was born in Edinburgh, where his father was a distinguished medical academic, and went to school at the Edinburgh Academy, where in addition to being head boy he also played rugby for Scottish schoolboys. From Edinburgh he went to St Catharine's College, Cambridge to read modern and medieval French and German, and was a Rugby Blue. If that sounds rather “British establishment”, it does not capture Robert's freethinking and alternative character.

After Cambridge he studied for a PGCE at Manchester University and then he and Wendy, who had married in 1971, lived in Catford while Robert taught French and German at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Boys School at New Cross in South London. In 1976 they moved to Bristol, where they raised their two sons, David and Simon, and Robert took up a position at Henbury School as Head of French and then Head of Sixth Form. During this time, he also earned an MEd from Bristol University.

In 1990 he made a major career change via the ESRC Management Teaching Fellowship scheme and began to work at what became the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol Business School, where he subsequently became a lecturer, senior lecturer and reader. During this time he was awarded a PhD by publication on management learning. He was also already involved with the Grubb Institute, working at the interface of Christian faith, organisations, and psychodynamics.

Robert's first book was the edited volume, Rethinking Management Education (French & Grey, 1996), which became influential in the field of critical management studies.

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