Eddie Byers: a tribute by Sarah Cooper
16 December 2015

"I'm going to make this the best language association in the world". That was Eddie's pledge at his interview almost exactly two years ago, and that interview left the Board of Trustees in no doubt that we had found the man to lead English UK.

He was as good as his word, but if you had met Eddie, and many of you did, you'd know that.

Eddie took over officially as chief executive of English UK in May 2014 and in June 2014 I had the privilege of being elected chair of the Board of Trustees. For all too brief a time we worked closely together, but what an enriching and stimulating time, for the association, for the Board and for me personally.

Eddie had a clear vision of what he wanted English UK to be, and acknowledged the many strengths it already had as an organisation. He spent his first six months visiting as many members as he possibly could, listened to you and started to shape the new direction for the association. As chair I was close to that development and spent much time with him talking through ideas, exploring options and asking questions. We met regularly, always before and after every board or sub board meeting, shaping the strategy which he then presented at the English UK Annual Conference in May in Manchester.

There have been so many tough and testing times in our industry, with seemingly no let up and Eddie felt this keenly. He was a business man and understood the pain some of you have been going through. He was a strategist and could see clearly the direction in which we needed to take the association. He was a political animal who understood how the game needed to be played. He was also a leader, who knew he had a strong team behind him, and he valued each and every one of them enormously.

Above all he was a gent: he was a kind and thoughtful man, who made a difference to people's lives. He gave of himself so generously: he would always make time to listen to people, and he would make them feel valued. He was firm with his decisions and gentle with his advice. He was also such fun.

We were lucky he came to us two years ago and we are the better for it. We are devastated that he is gone, but, he did exactly what he said he would do. Now we have to see it through.


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