Tribute to Paul Webley PDF Print E-mail

Dear Colleagues.

We have just been told that Paul Webley died on March, 03. Paul was a friend and colleague to many of us. He was IAREP President in years 1999 - 2000. Paul was an author of many groundbreaking papers and books in economic psychology. His research in saving, economic socialization or the psychology of many inspired hundreds of young scholars. Paul was one of the most widely respected people in our field and in other fields of psychology. For many years he was a part of the University of Exeter and then Director and Principal of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From 2010 until his death he served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. But, first of all, he was a great friend - always so warm, kind, open and ready to help.

We will miss you so much, Paul...

Very recently, Paul received the IAREP Honorary Membership. On that ocasion, Stephen Lea wrote a tribute to him which you can read here. Stephen has also shared with us the letter he wrote to Paul when he first heard from him that he had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer - a letter that beautifully reflects thoughts and feelings of all of us:

"My very dear Paul,

    To thank you for the message below seems absurd, but still I am glad to have heard this news from you and not from others.  I will of course keep it entirely to myself (apart from Bron, who has never let anything confidential slip in all the years that I have shared my thoughts with her).
    I am writing now in an unusual vein, because a median is just a median, and it has a tail to the left of it as well as to the right, and I would never forgive myself if some things remain unsaid until it was too late to say them.
    I do not think there is anyone outside the immediate family of whom I would have been more saddened to hear such news.  For decades, you have been my closest and best colleague, and one of the very few people I would count as a friend.  Bron and I were reflecting only last week how few people we count as real friends - having the good fortune of a close and warm family and above all an enduring and intensely fulfilling relationship, neither of us has ever felt the need for a circle of close friends.  We have a very wide circle of friendly acquaintances, but that is a different matter. But you have been one of the few, indeed the first I named in that conversation, and though your career path has reduced the time we have spent together in recent years, I have never felt that the bonds of friendship have weakened.
    You have taken the opportunity on a couple of occasions recently to pay generous tribute to my contributions to our discipline.  I have not had the reciprocal chance; but I want you to know how great your contribution has been, not only your own contribution to our discipline, and not only to the work where we have directly collaborated.  I have always believed that, without your skills and insights, complementary to mine in many ways - not to mention your enthusiasm, creativity, and good companionship - I could never have achieved much at all in economic psychology.  It would all have just been another unfulfilled idea.  It is no exaggeration to say that, when you arrived in Exeter, you changed my academic life, permanently and for the better.
    All of this, however, would have counted for little if you hadn't been, consistently, such fun to work with - whether in teaching, research or administration - and if you had not borne so patiently my frequent indecisions, procrastinations, and downright eccentricities.  And if you hadn't been such good company, in work or out of it; someone with whom joys and sorrows and absurdities could always be shared.
    For all of this I am and will always be deeply, deeply grateful. I hope you know that; I hope you have always known that; but I am certainly not going to let you die without saying it to you.
    No doubt the doctors will do all that can be done, and yes, a median is only a median, and the right tail is necessarily longer than the left.  We will be hoping for the right tail, because that is all we can do.  Meanwhile our love and sympathy and thoughts are with you.