The news of the death of Simon Cole, former Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, has left many of us here at De Montfort University in shock and sadness.
For more than a decade Simon led the county’s police service and when he retired, just 12 days before he died, he was the longest-serving Chief Constable in England and Wales.
This is a clear mark of the quality of his leadership and the energy and charisma he brought to the role, and to the county as a whole.
It was these qualities he embodied as a member of our Board of Governors. For three years, between 2017 to 2020, he played an active part in the university community, attending board meetings and helping to advise on strategic decisions.
But besides this, Simon was always keen to meet students and support projects in the community. When, in 2018, DMU student volunteers joined schoolchildren and police officers to plant 10,000 flowers in memory of a young police officer who had died, Simon joined them at the park in Willow Street, Leicester, meeting people and helping out.
In 2018, DMU and Leicestershire Police began the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), to train new police constables. It was the first such programme to allow apprentices to learn and work in the communities where they would serve as PCs.
Simon made a point of meeting those taking part in the course personally and returned each year as new cohorts began, taking the time to introduce himself and give advice and support to students on the course.
In 2014, we tried to make it clear how much the university appreciated the dedication and leadership he had shown across the county by awarding him an honorary degree. He accepted and was made Honorary Doctor of Arts, joining a graduation ceremony held at Curve theatre.
While earning respect as one of Leicestershire’s most visible and long-serving leaders, Simon also won loyalty and admiration for his warmth, personality and genuine interest in others.
As Professor Katie Normington, Vice-Chancellor of DMU, said: “Simon was the very first person that contacted me from the city on the news of my appointment as VC to DMU.
“He expressed the deep connection he had with DMU which stemmed from his father attending our former institution.
“I had the good fortune to meet him a number of times, including a few weeks ago. He was a very highly regarded leader and lovely person – the sort of leader we all aspire to be. He will be hugely missed within the city.”
Ian Squires, chairman of DMU’s Board of Governors, said: “Simon had been a stalwart member of our board of governors for three years when I joined as chair in 2020.
“His commitment and contribution were clear and both the breadth and depth of his experience - on which we drew - were significant in shaping the work of the board. The loss to the city, the county and all of those who knew Simon is profound indeed.”
Posted on Thursday 31st March 2022