David Wilson

EGOS Honorary Member 2015

Laudatio by Ziyad Marar

It is an honour and a pleasure to be delivering this Laudatio for David Wilson.

I first met David while visiting Warwick Business School around 15 years ago. He was then, as he is now, a man of charm and warmth, and we instantly made a connection that was the beginning of close friendship and working relationship that has lasted ever since. I will return to that theme. But first some highlights of his remarkable career.

We start in Bradford in the 1970s, where David joined David Hickson’s research team, to help produce (at the time) the largest empirical study of strategic decision making processes in various types of organisations – known internationally as the Bradford Studies.

The mid-80s saw him move from Bradford to Warwick University (via a year at Uppsala) where he was part of the new intake tasked with creating what was to become Warwick Business School.

David’s research had begun to focus on voluntary organisations, where his research unit explored strategy and structure in non-profit organizations in the UK. Co-authored with Professor Richard Butler, the results were published in journal papers and in a research monograph which has been re-published in 2015, showing the ongoing relevance of that work.

After a four-year spell as Research Director at Aston University, David came back to Warwick Business School in 1997 and revived the Bradford Decision Making studies. Teaming up once again with David Hickson and adding Susan Miller to the team, the next few years were spent creating a longitudinal time line to tell the story of putting strategies into practice (long before this theme came of age). During this research, I was pleased to note that David often came across the same informants he had interviewed many times some 20 years ago – giving the lie to the then common assumption of high levels of labour churn in so-called modern organizations. Which makes me feel better as I turn 26 years at SAGE next week!

Alongside his considerable research output, David is also a highly able teacher and administrator, the former resulting in a sizeable number of teaching excellence awards and the latter resulting in him becoming Deputy Dean of Warwick Business School (2007–2009) and then Acting Dean (2010). Resisting a further spell of Deanship, David became head of the sociology department where he and his team won a sizeable three year research grant which will provide one of the largest databases and analyses of employment and labour markets for young people in the UK. He continues as Research Dean of the OU to this day.

A large volume of journal papers and a couple of monographs are testimony to a lifetime conducting substantial pieces of research. Along the way, he also found time to co-author two large text books which continue to be updated in various editions.

A passionate supporter of PhDs and young scholars, David has supervised many who have subsequently become international figures in their own right. They cite David as a thorough and constructively critical supervisor who was able to give them a good grounding in research and to learn to love the process.

Alongside this busy research output, there is of course his ongoing relationship with Organization Studies (OS) to be at Bradford Management Centre in the 1970s, was to be surrounded by the birth of the journal. David soon became involved in the early stages of launching the journal, publishing a paper in volume 3 and becoming language editor and subsequently editorial board member, then Deputy Editor and of course Editor-in-Chief before handing over to Hari Tsoukas in 2003. Later a member of Organization Studies’ Advisory Board, David still continues advising the EGOS Board on matters of the journal.

Kiren and I and the rest of the team at SAGE have had the pleasure of working with David for over a decade and have valued his professionalism and wise counsel throughout. He lives and breathes the journal but does so with a lightness of touch and an understanding that relationships are to be conducted in a spirit of mutual respect, and, ideally, fun. It was particularly apt for David to explain, at the beginning of the publishing relationship with us at SAGE that there should be an annual dinner to further cement the community of scholars, to further embed the great culture that is OS. The fact that he has a passion for red wine I’m sure had something to do with it. His passions are many in fact. Only certain twists of fate kept David from alternative careers as a professional guitarist or even racing road bikes both of which continue to be big parts of his life. Any of you who were there for that 2001 Colloquium in Lyon will know what I’m talking about.

But these alternative David’s would have deprived us of the third aspect of his career; his lifelong commitment to EGOS. Cut David in half and you will probably read EGOS! A member since its foundation; a former Chair of EGOS and a Board Member for twelve consecutive years: this must surely be some kind of record.

In this time, he provided a continuing thread of insight, know how, encouragement and an ability to step in at critical junctures in EGOS’ history to bring about outcomes that always guide EGOS well. He has been a founding voice and a wise advisor. And at the same David has always been active in supporting PhDs and early career scholars at the EGOS colloquia (typical of his dedication to the next generations of scholars).

To conclude, I have only been able to offer glimpses of David’s amazing contributions through a selection of lenses, but he is much more than the sum of these parts. I’ve had many opportunities to hear about David during this EGOS meeting and some very strong themes emerge and converge.

David is an EGOSian through and through, but, crucially, he is an EGOSian without ego.

The essence of David can be distilled in a word that he himself will use as high praise for others. Human. His stance towards others is generous and enabling, and has allowed voices to grow and strengthen. George Elliott once said that the growing good of the world owes much to unhistoric acts of kindness. I’m sure I speak for many in this room who have been grateful recipients of David’s good spirits and warms words. I’d like to think he sets an example of what it is to be fully human in an age which makes such qualities increasingly rare and increasingly precious.

Please join me in congratulating David Wilson on this recognition as EGOS Honorary Member 2015.