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Alumnus of the month

27 November 2020

Professor Ron Beadle is our Westminster City School Alumnus of the Month for November 2020. 

Professor Beadle left Westminster City School in 1984. He is now Professor of Organization and Business Ethics at Northumbria University.

How did you become a professor at Northumbria University?
I joined Northumbria University in Newcastle as a lecturer back in 1992. Before that I had gained undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the London School of Economics, had worked in human resource management for British Gas, and had been a researcher for the MP for Fulham.

An academic career involves teaching, researching and managing, and I have done all three. My work has taken me to Malaysia, Israel, the Canaries, Germany and other countries where Northumbria has academic partners and this opportunity to travel and work with people across the world has meant a lot to me.  

I became interested in the ethics of work and business in the late 1990s and my research since then has been published in a number of academic journals and books. I was promoted to the title of professor in 2013.  

What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Westminster City School?
I am pleased that my work has been useful to others and that some of my publications have changed the way scholars think about ethics at work. This means that I have been invited to lecture at academic conferences in a number of countries including the USA and Spain. 

I am also pleased that work I began in the 1990s, to improve our students’ chances of getting into graduate jobs, has helped thousands of them over the years. It is great to see how well they are doing; one of my students is a CEO of an excellent sustainable energy business, another is an MP in Germany, and there are many more who have done great things with their lives.

Outside of work, I was elected to be a Liberal Democrat councillor in 1996 and have been re-elected seven time since then. I have also written a column in our regional newspaper, The Journal, since 2007. What pleases me about all of this is longevity – I believe sticking to your commitments is important.  

I am also really proud of my family. My wife works in our local primary school, our daughter is currently doing A Levels and intends to go to drama school and our son is in his second year studying aeronautic and astronautic engineering at Southampton University – literally doing rocket science.

What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
Go to the best university you can and try to find an academic mentor who inspires and can help you. We all need good mentors and academics like to spot people who love their subjects and have the talent and determination to do good research themselves. The next step is to continue your studies, normally with a Master’s degree and then a doctorate. This will be expensive, and it takes many years (normally well into your 20s) but there are organisations willing to fund interesting research and your mentor(s) can help you with this. While you are doing this, you should take every opportunity to teach that you can. 

How have your experiences at Westminster City School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?
I took two main things from Westminster City School – firstly an appreciation for good teachers, the ones who were passionate about their subject. In particular, Brian Gostick, who taught A Level History and A Level Politics would bring these subjects to life by doing wonderful impersonations of people from history.  

Secondly, I learned how to communicate – to really listen to people as well as talking to them. A friend and I ran the Debating Society, and we regularly had MPs and others visit. We learned a lot and it’s not an accident that he became barrister, and I became a professor! Genuinely listening to people, conducting our conversations with respect and being open to change our views as a result of good argument are qualities of character that are key to leading a good life.

Can you describe one of your fondest memories from your time at Westminster City School?
We once ran a brilliant debate with Grey Coat Hospital School on the motion, ‘That a line should be drawn’ – with one teacher and one pupil from each school on either side. The arguments were brilliant, funny, crazy and we filled the room!

What’s next?
I am working on a book on ethics in business from the point of view of different types of relationships. Whereas most ethical theories treat everyone the same, our actual relationships differ markedly between those with friends, those with strangers and those with enemies. The ethical question is about the differences in how we treat all three.  

We love hearing what our alumni have been doing since leaving Westminster City School. Each month, we are inviting a member of our alumni community to share their story of life after Palace Street.

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