Emotional tributes following sudden death of Leeds college chief

Peter Roberts.
Peter Roberts.
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THE DEATH of the former Leeds City College principal has been described as a “tragic loss to the whole city.”

Tributes have been paid to Peter Roberts, the former principal and chief executive of the City College and a leading figure in further education, who has passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Mr Roberts, who received a CBE for his services to further education shortly before his retirement last year, has been praised for his knowledge and commitment to the college, young people and the city.

Tributes have been paid today by city leaders, colleagues and students following the news of his death.

City Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Roberts, a man whose dedication to and passion for further education made a huge difference to the lives of thousands of young people in our city. During his time as principal of Leeds City College, Peter’s commitment was second to none and his knowledge and consummate professionalism made him a source of invaluable guidance and support for the council.” She added: “He was also a genuine, kind and popular man and his death is a tragic loss to the whole city. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Council chief executive Tom Riordan added: “I am so very sorry to hear this news and send my deepest condolences to Peter’s family and friends. Peter Roberts epitomised the very best of public service and made a hugely positive difference to young people in Leeds.

“He was thoughtful, friendly and completely committed to the city and further education. Peter helped me enormously over the last six years and I consider myself lucky to have known him.”

A series of tributes have also been paid on social media to Mr Roberts today.

Leeds City College’s student union president Emily Chapman posted on Twitter saying: “Sad start to the year hearing of the sudden death of Peter Roberts. Lovely man and very supportive to all learners. Will be missed.”

The chairman of the college’s governing body Shaid Mahmood added: “Sad to hear of passing of Peter Roberts CBE much loved and admired friend, colleague and mentor.”

In a statement on the college’s website Mr Mahmood said: “It is with a profound sense of loss and deep sadness that I inform you of the sudden passing yesterday of Peter Roberts CBE.

Peter was the first principal/chief executive officer of the Leeds City College Group. Recently retired, he continued to lend his many years of leadership experience to the college and provide both friendship and support to us. A much loved, admired and respected friend, colleague, and mentor for many, his love for Leeds City College and the City of Leeds and his championing of all things FE was surpassed only by his love for his family and his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

“Funny, lightening quick, intellectually adept and astute and with an incredible touch with people, his passing has left an immeasurable emptiness amongst those of us that knew him that will be difficult to fill. We all in some way walk in the footsteps of giants and we are all the better for having walked in Peter’s. The board’s heartfelt condolences go to his family at this difficult time. Sleep peacefully Peter. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn posted on Twitter saying; “Peter was a lovely man and passionate about further education’s power to change people’s lives. Such a loss. Thinking of his family.”

Tributes were also being paid from across the further education sector.

Ian Pryce the principal and chief executive of Bedford College posted that the “sudden death of Leeds Principal Peter Roberts desperately sad and unfair. The most accomplished, funny and least egotistical man you could meet.”

Mr Roberts joined the college in 2009.