Obituary for Dr Mark Goodwin

The late Dr Mark Goodwin talking to Ethiopian farmers and children
The late Dr Mark Goodwin (1960-2018) talking to Ethiopian farmers and children

I am so saddened to write about the sudden death of my good friend, colleague and co-project leader, Mark Goodwin. We had very extensive common interests in the application and delivery of research for developing countries, research ethics, and in the role and importance of tertiary education and pedagogy. His inputs to my thinking about these areas have been critical to my research and how it impacts other people throughout the world, and I will so much miss the opportunities for discussions and working together in the future. His loss is an enormous shock: we spent much of his last day together discussing research and dissemination, and finalizing plans for his summit in Ethiopia the following week.

I first got to know Mark well 10 years ago in the context of the link with University of Gondar. He had real vision behind developing the PhD studentships to support staff members at the Ethiopian University. During previous visits to Ethiopia with Mark, we saw many scientific and cultural highlights together, all of which I am sure were applied in our research and teaching in the future (videos where we were together are on Youtube: Fishing tilapia in Lake Hawassa  or investigating conservation plantings to stop hillside erosion in Aksum). He brought extensive and insightful personal input to every one of us involved in the project, and was a true driver. I also saw a lot of Mark’s incredible help to individual students: in a time when so many want students to be considered as numbers and something to do form-filling correctness, he knew every single one he worked with, and would go out of his way to support them in any way he could, always working so the special talents of individuals came out. He challenged administration if needed or sorted out difficult issues. Examples include arranging for his project students to spend time with me in structured interviews, or finding ways to arrange suitable accommodation and subsistence payments, or working to obtain grants or funding to support visits.

Mark Goodwin (right) with Tesfeye Bizuayeu and Pat Heslop-Harrison in an Enset germplasm collection field
Mark Goodwin (right) with Tesfeye Bizuayeu and Pat Heslop-Harrison in an Enset germplasm collection field

In our current joint project on Abyssinian banana, enset or Ensete ventricosum, Mark, as co-Investigator, has been ensuring we go far beyond scientific goals towards building a group of collaborative stakeholders – including HEIs and established agricultural research organisations. The website is one of the outputs, with huge input to the contents and structure from Mark. Through Mark’s expertise, we could ensure our research aims were kept close to the agriculture, environmental, social and economic development issues, we kept engagement with the research, showed the necessary commitment to implementing the outcomes through collaborations, networking and negotiation.

I feel so fortunate to have spent a lot of time with Mark on his last day. We had lunch together in the University cafeteria, and had a typical wide-ranging discussions about delivery of impact for research projects and research assessment, the challenges he had just faced so successfully in leading the recruitment of Undergraduate students to the University, how we can ensure a high profile for the need for higher education for international development within governments and the UK, project supervision ideas and challenges, the latest news on our publications and so much more. We moved on to the topic of a meeting we had planned later in the afternoon: Mark was leading the organization of a summit and other meetings in Hawassa and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the following week. Mark was found in his office later that evening. He was looking forward to making inputs to the delivery of the development goals, and steering the scientific outputs to seeing how they could be used in education and dissemination, in policy and in application, in sustainable agriculture, economic or rural development, and environmental improvement.

Mark Goodwin with Worku Mhiret in the field in Ethiopia
Mark Goodwin with Worku Mhiret in the field in Ethiopia

I will certainly miss too discussions with Mark about wider issues of ethics, music and arts, global culture and history. He was truly a great friend, and one I could always rely upon. I know he will be missed by his many students and collaborators throughout the world.

Mark was taken from us far too early, but his contributions will live on through his huge impact to both research application and implementation, the development of higher education structures internationally, research evaluation and pedagogy, teaching in the UK and abroad, and the delivery of the projects for development.

Pat Heslop-Harrison

A notice about the sad loss of Mark is also published on the University of Leicester website, giving more details of his huge contributions to the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology and the School of Biological Sciences.




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