So I learned today of the death of someone who inspired not just me but countless generations of young people. His name was Joe Cassidy, principal of St Chad’s College Durham, UK, of which I am an alumni twice over.
You don’t really reflect on how people impact on your social and professional lives until, sadly, they are gone. Joe was one of those few and special people that combined managerial skills and leadership with academic and teaching ability. He led a college community as a priest and academic and was able to provide a highly moral and inclusive view of the world. This was a view that he inculcated into the generations of Chadsmen he has seen pass through the College’s doors.
It is this moral sense and a sense of right that was not dogmatic or particularly pious in its expression. This is the reason why, in an increasingly atheist society, he was able to be relevant and impactful on those young students he worked with and supported in the College community.
It got me thinking about how he has impacted me. He was a tough manager, able to put his perspective across in a forceful, but polite and engaging way. Yet you never felt as if he’d won or you’d lost. More a sense of shared engagement with tough choices and issues.
He also created a sense of moral location. By that I mean he was able to communicate, in his words, but mainly through his actions, a sense of right and wrong. This was not a narrow dogmatic sense of right and wrong, as he was open to diversity of views and people.
This was very important to me professionally as I see internal audit and my role as an internal auditor as having, in some small way, a moral and ethical component. Whilst it is not for internal audit to judge right from wrong in pejorative or dogmatic way (for I and Joe recognised that the world is complex and there are very rarely moral absolutes) it is a recognition that business, as any other field of work, has to have some sense of societal and moral obligation. It has to work for us all as citizens of one global community.
For Joe, like the very best people I have known, was able to be influential without you knowing it; supportive without you feeling a sense of obligation; and most importantly able to bring a sense of perspective that puts the noise of life in its immediacy to one side. This is especially important as when you are a student (undergraduate or postgraduate) the world seems like a competitive race and short termism in choices can soon take over.
For that and all the many things he did, seen and unseen, I, and the many generations of Chad’s graduates, will miss him.