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Tributes pour in for Professor Ben Knight

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Tributes pour in for Professor Ben Knight

Tributes have been made to Ben Knight, Professor of Practice and Associate Professor of Economics, who has sadly passed away at the age of 78.

Professor Ben Knight spent most of his 53 years at the University of Warwick teaching in the Department of Economics before moving to Warwick Business School (WBS) as a Professor of Practice in 2012.

In 2018, Professor Knight was diagnosed with kidney cancer but kept working until shortly before his death at the end of June. He was known as a passionate educator and researcher and made a significant contribution to teaching and research in the Department of Economics. He was a much-loved faculty member and a popular lecturer, and will be greatly missed by staff and students alike.

Ben Knight

Professor Ben Knight published papers in the areas of Macroeconomics, Labour Economics and Industrial Relations and wrote an influential book on unemployment. As a lecturer, he was committed to delivering an innovative and engaging teaching experience and led on first and second year Macroeconomics modules, primarily aimed at students on joint degree study programmes such as Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Economics, Politics and International Studies (EPAIS).

He also taught on third year undergraduate and MSc Labour Economics modules and played a major role working with academic colleagues at the University to set up a joint degree programme in Italian and Economics. Beyond Warwick, Professor Knight taught innovative and highly regarded courses to civil servants to HM Treasury and other Government departments.

Reza Moghadam did his PhD under the supervision of Professor Ben Knight before going on to play a leading role at the International Monetary Fund for 20 years. He is now Vice-Chairman for Global Capital Markets at investment bank Morgan Stanley.

He said: “Ben was a great supervisor not just because he was an amazing source of ideas and a sounding board, but because he cared for us as individuals,” said Reza. “Doing a PhD is often a lonely business but not so with Ben. He constantly reached out, not just to push along the thesis, but to support and encourage. He started as a supervisor but remained a friend. Ben took huge pride in what Warwick had achieved as an institution during his tenure. But he took equal pride in what each of his students like me achieved at Warwick and beyond. This is why his passing is a devastating blow to each of us.

Barry Reilly, now Professor of Econometrics at the University of Sussex, completed his PhD under Professor Ben Knight's supervision. He was saddened to hear of his passing: "I first met Ben in 1984 when I arrived at the University of Warwick to study for what was then the MA in Economics. Ben taught on the Labour Economics module and was an effective, popular and empathetic teacher who helped ignite and inspire my interest in this area of economics.

Professor Barry Reilly went on to say: "I remained at Warwick to undertake a PhD in labour economics with Ben appointed as one of my supervisors. I benefitted immensely from his scholarship, knowledge and guidance throughout this time. I always found Ben an approachable and down-to-earth individual with a very good sense of humour. He will be sadly missed by all those, like myself, touched by his warmth and decency."

Robin Naylor, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick remembers Professor Ben Knight as a remarkable mentor to both students and junior colleagues. He said: “Ben was a phenomenon: one of the warmest, kindest and most supportive of teachers and colleagues one could wish for. Combined with his dedication to the subject matter of economics, his passionate determination to convey knowledge and understanding to his students and his charismatic style of lecturing, Ben inspired countless numbers of students in the department of economics.

"Of course, this also made him an impossible act to follow. (I always made sure I taught in term one in all the many modules we shared together over the many years). Ben sparkled in the lecture theatre: a natural performer, energy and electricity seemed to burst from him – but it was the substance of his material that mattered most to him and that grabbed his students’ attention and inspired them to their best work. Ben cared.

Emeritus Professor Mark Stewart a friend and former colleague recalls his first encounter with him: "I regard it as a privilege to have known Ben as a colleague and friend over the years. I still remember with great gratitude how friendly and welcoming he was when I first arrived at Warwick and how helpful he was to this know-nothing new lecturer. I learned a lot from him. He was a brilliant teacher and outstanding communicator with students. Unsurprisingly he won numerous teaching awards."

"He had a great gift for finding inventive hooks on which to hang new ideas and facts. Sometimes with a different angle from which to view an issue, sometimes with a flash of humour or an obscure piece of cockney rhyming slang. Students greatly appreciated his outstanding communication skills and his enthusiasm for economics and the uses to which it could be put. He was always a really hard act to follow in joint teaching. He genuinely relished discussing economics with students and they could see this and reciprocated with enthusiasm. Successive generations of students and colleagues owe him a huge debt of gratitude".

Wiji Arulampalam, Professor of Economics, who shared PhD supervision with Professor Knight and a friend of the family said: "Ben was a wonderful friend and a colleague. Ben, his wife Cynthia, and few of our colleagues and partners, used to meet up socially at each other’s houses and always had a lovely memorable and enjoyable time. I still remember those evenings with fondness. Ben was a dedicated and committed teacher and the students loved him".

"Although I never shared any teaching with him, I have shared PhD supervisions with him. He always had good intuition for the subject and it was a privilege to have learnt economics from him during these supervisory meetings. He will be very sadly missed. My heartfelt condolences to Cynthia and to his daughters Sally and Rosie."

Professor Dick Sargent, a founding member of the Economics Department at the University of Warwick, said: “Ben was an early member of the department, and became very much a stalwart of it. He was one of those unexcitable people who could always be relied on to get on with whatever required doing, and at the same time to have a joke or some perceptive observation to share with one. My condolences and best wishes go to his family.”

An online book of condolences will be launched by the Department of Economics in memory of Professor Ben Knight. If you would like to submit a message, please click here.

Professor Knight's wife and family are raising money for The Myton Hospices which cared for him at home and whose funding is under threat. Please click here to donate.

If you knew Ben and are affected by this news, there is a range of University support available to all staff and students. The Wellbeing Support Services website gives more details about support available, or you can contact the team on 024 76 575570, ext. 75570.