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Cheeky Charlie Chimp » A Tribute by Prof Richard Hey

Cheeky Charlie Chimp

31st January, 2007

A Tribute by Prof Richard Hey

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Prof Hey began by stating that the flags at the University of East Anglia were being flown at half mast today in honour of Katie.

Katie came up to the University of East Anglia in 2002 to read for a degree in Environmental Sciences with an additional year at a North American University.

Competition to gain a place on such a programme is particularly fierce and only the best students are accepted. Not only do they have to be academically gifted, they also have to be confident, self reliant and above all have the maturity to cope with and benefit from, such an experience.

Although I had taught Katie prior to her year in Canada, it was only after she returned last September and took my course on rivers and their management that I became better acquainted with her. It was apparent from the outset that this course fired her interest and we spent many an hour in my office discussing her projects before adjourning to the Senior Common Room for a well earned coffee break. I was thrilled that Katie shared my interests.

There is no doubt that Katie would have obtained a good first class honours degree in Environmental Sciences. She then planned to take an MSc in River and Catchment Management at Leeds University but, if events had worked out differently, I would have offered her a PhD studentship at UEA as she clearly had the originality, perspicacity and perseverance to undertake original research.

Sadly Katie became ill towards the end of her first semester in this academic year. The School community, both staff and students were stunned by the news. I kept in contact with Katie and her parents as she was undergoing treatment to advise on options to enable Katie to fulfil her potential on her return to UEA and to be updated on progress with her treatment.

At the end of March Katie sent me a wonderful card containing a message to her peers who were taking a field course with me in Wales. Her old enthusiasm had returned as she clearly wished to be with us. The students responded in kind but, unfortunately, their best wishes arrived a day too late.

When Liz telephoned me with news of Katie’s passing, I felt numb and empty. I also felt that Katie had been cheated of the opportunity to fulfil her dreams. Here was a young lady with exceptional talent who was liked by all those who came into contact with her and who had been prematurely taken from us. With her talent and ability she had a glittering future ahead of her. Working for rivers was her ambition and she would have made a difference.

Although I had not known Katie for as long as many of you attending this service, it had been my privilege to spend some time with her. We shall miss those wonderful facial expressions that mirrored her thoughts, quizzical when baffled followed by the dawning of enlightenment, sparkling when inspired and wreathed in smiles when amused. We shall remember the pleasure we had in her company, her lively mind, inquisitive nature, the cut and thrust of discussion and above all, the beguiling lisp.

Katie was one of the most charming, mature and courteous group leaders I have ever had the pleasure to teach during my university career. Although she had many talents, she was always self effacing, selfless, strong, determined and reliable. Someone you could trust implicitly.

Our thoughts and prayers on this sad occasion are for Liz and Allan and their family. Katie achieved a great deal in her short life. I am sure that she would be the first to agree that much of her success could be attributed to the love, support and encouragement of her devoted parents.

Katie, we will all miss you.

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