In appreciation of Barbara Morris – my supervisor, mentor and good friend

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



Bell, L. (2004), "In appreciation of Barbara Morris – my supervisor, mentor and good friend", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 17 No. 7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In appreciation of Barbara Morris – my supervisor, mentor and good friend

It was with some shock and sadness that we heard of Barbara Morris’s death earlier on in the year. She was responsible for the “Topical” middle section of the Journal always delivering her copy on time. Below, we publish an appreciation of Barbara from one of her students who has used Barbara’s teaching to write the article that appears before this.

Robin Gourlay

In appreciation of Barbara Morris – my supervisor, mentor and good friend

Lighting a cigarette and having a strong pot of coffee were always Barbara’s starting points in any project. In her office at the university the coffee pot was always on and her ashtray was inevitably full; the welcome was warm and she usually had an interesting anecdote to share. When asked how she was she would reply “just as lovely as ever”, and those among us who had the pleasure of knowing her will smile at that and think how true.

My first encounter with Barbara was outside the main hospital building at Runwell Hospital in Essex; she was surreptitiously smoking and I was headed to a job interview, we shared a joke as I passed. Some joke, as it happened she interviewed me, and I got the job. The process of “Educating Rita” had begun for us both …

Barbara was an inspiration to me while I studied; she was a great teacher and had the art of leading the horse to water and getting her to drink. Barbara was intuitively aware of when to push me, when to give support, and when to back off and leave me to cogitate. She would laugh gleefully as she struck through pages of work, telling me to apply Occam’s razor in her lovely handwriting (anyone who doesn’t know about Occam should do what she told me to do and look it up). She believed in clear communication, not academic speak; Barbara had the art of explaining difficult concepts in a simple way, that was one of her many great gifts.

Barbara was very witty and had the art of self-depreciation; she was also one of the most generous and giving women I have known. She used to laugh at herself, and was never guilty of taking herself or academia too seriously. Barbara had the capacity to analyse ideas in an entertaining way, and she made developing knowledge a joy-filled journey. She was also a gifted public speaker, and listening to her explore a paper was always an interesting experience.

Barbara was extremely gifted with words, and I learned to express myself more creatively from her. Instead of saying that published ideas in my area were “ridiculous crap”; I learned to say “whilst such ideas may be intellectually appealing, they remain largely lacking in empirical or theoretical grounding”. We both agreed the latter was more useful for purposes of my thesis, but the former phrase remained present during our many discussions.

Barbara had the common touch, she could communicate at many levels and she lived her life by embracing everything about her. She loved her husband greatly, and was like a child every Christmas, with decorations, carols, food and drink filling her home. There was a tree in every room, and she had not missed any bauble hanging opportunities; she always sent cards and loved Christmas shopping.

I remember when I was told she’d died, I felt angry with her for leaving me with the ideas we’d discussed on the phone before Christmas. It was the usual, we were “too busy to meet up”, but we “planned to start two projects together in the new year”. We did meet up in the new year, but not as expected; I saw Bernie, Barbara’s husband, at the funeral. Therein lies another tale, for now I have to work on our ideas without her. I shall miss her happy guffaw of laughter; her extremely strong coffee and cigarettes; and most importantly, I shall miss her valuable thoughts and experience. I shall also have to complete the impossibly hard jigsaw that I had planned to inflict on her by myself.

What else to say about Barbara: she was a jigsaw-aholic; she liked watching the athletics on TV; she loved lying beside her small swimming pool in Broadstairs; she enjoyed reading and kept a small zoo at home with her husband Bernie. She always held out her hand to the underdog; she understood the great gift of education; most importantly for me she viewed knowledge as a gift to be freely and generously shared. That’s everything and nothing I suppose – thank you and I miss you – Barbara Morris.

Louise BellModern Matron-Rehabilitation Services, South Essex Partnership NHS Trust

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