We are sad to lose one of our longest-standing trustees, Gordon Thornhill, who died in June aged 88. Gordon represented the ‘Old Salts’ (St Peter’s College Old Students’ Association) on our Trustee board since 2001.
Gordon’s career was spent as an RE teacher, working in schools in Ashbourne, Lichfield and Burton. A kind and supportive colleague, he was also a tireless rep for his teaching union, remaining involved long after retirement (only last autumn I bumped into him quite by chance on a station platform as he headed off to the union conference) – ‘he was the sort of person you wanted in your corner’, one person said to me recently.
Gordon’s passions extended well beyond teaching however – amongst other things he was active in his local church and a long-standing parish councillor. In July 1966, he began volunteering on the board of visitors for what is now HMP Foston Hall, staying involved for decades and becoming possibly the longest-serving IMB board member in the country (when he retired, they named a prison wing after him in recognition). In 2010 Gordon was also made an MBE and received the Maundy Money at Derby Cathedral, from the late Queen Elizabeth II. This recognition tickled Gordon, primarily because it was not something he ever sought or expected – for him, I got the sense that true fulfilment lay in the simple practice of serving others quietly and selflessly.
As a long-standing trustee, Gordon was conscientious and reliable in attending meetings and reading papers. Never one for computers, he mastered dialling into Zoom during the pandemic in order to continuing to take part in meetings. Gordon’s evaluation of project applications was always considered and fair, even when he was doubtful about a proposal. He was firm in his views but never obstructed the decision of the majority if he found himself on the other side of the argument. As a former teacher of RE, his particular contribution was to remind us that schools projects must first and foremost be educational before they were anything else, and whilst he was a strong advocate for the study of Christianity, he was also enthusiastic for projects which brought increased understanding across faith traditions. We will miss his courteous, measured but firm contributions to our discussions and his bonhomie in the traditional pub lunch following the rtustees’ meetings.
On Friday 28 June St Paul’s Scropton, where Gordon had served for churchwarden for so many years, was packed with family, friends, colleagues from various sectors, and members of his local church. Although we miss Gordon’s presence and contribution, we look forward to a continuing relationship with the St Peter’s OSA which he represented on the Trustee body for so many years.