Photo: Emiel Muijderman

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In Memoriam: Paul Benneworth

We are extremely saddened to share with you the news that our colleague Paul Benneworth passed away in his sleep on Tuesday 12 May. His passing came completely unexpectedly. Paul was only 46 years old. He leaves behind his wife Leanne and two children.

From 2009, Paul Benneworth was a senior researcher at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente. In January this year he took up a professorship in Innovation and Regional Development at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen, while still keeping a one day a week appointment at CHEPS to continue supervising his PhD students in Twente. Paul had studied geography at Oxford University and obtained a doctoral degree in Economic Geography from the University of Newcastle, where he started his academic career in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies.

Paul’s research focused on the dynamics of innovation and societal change in peripheral regions. This interest also brought him to Twente – first as a visiting scholar in the NIKOS department of our university, and later as a CHEPS researcher studying the role of the University of Twente in our region. He was passionate about Twente and deeply committed to the region – not just as an academic, but also as an engaged citizen. He enthusiastically included regional organisations in his projects. He participated in many public debates, arguing eloquently with local politicians and policymakers and speaking Dutch almost fluently. Together with his wife Leanne, they moved from the North East of England to settle in Lonneker, where Paul immediately felt at home, integrating easily into the town he loved and raising their two children, Theo and Martha, while joining the local football team EFC PW 1885, and an amateur theatre company in Enschede.

Paul excelled as a writer – contributing both to academic journals and newspapers. He is one of the most cited researchers in his field, having published more than 300 academic articles, several scientific books and dozens of conference papers and professional publications. Paul served as a reviewer for a wide range of journals, research councils and funding agencies internationally. In debates, few could match his speaking skills and counter his arguments. He had a sharp mind and a sharp tongue, as evidenced in his many tweets and blogs. He was inspiring, creative and constructive in his reasoning. As a supervisor and mentor for students – including those in the highly successful “Crossing Borders” minor programme at the University of Twente – he was unparalleled.

Paul supported in very special and dedicated ways the young researchers he brought to CHEPS and to the recently founded institute he was leading in Bergen, Norway. He was one of the initiators of the RUNIN project – an EU-funded training programme that investigates the role of universities in innovation and regional development, a programme that was also supported by the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) and the Region of Twente. Throughout the RUNIN project he demonstrated care and compassion for the RUNIN researchers working on their PhDs, developing them in the craft of academic writing and co-authoring many of their first publications. It is tragic that he cannot attend the graduation ceremonies of the PhD candidates he supervised and who are now close to completion.

His efforts to make universities and scientific research matter, made Paul also a driving force behind initiatives to improve the position of the social sciences and humanities. It is telling that he twittered and blogged under the flag of Heravalue, about the public value of the Humanities. He was also an inspiring member of the COST initiative ENRESSH on the evaluation of research in social sciences and humanities, in which he typically took responsibility for organising a young researcher training school on “Understanding and stimulating SSH impact and engagement with society.”

His colleagues will remember Paul as a passionate and creative person, socially engaged and highly committed to furthering the socio-economic development of communities. His death fills us with sorrow, and we wish his wife, children, family and friends strength in coming to terms with such an enormous loss. His memory and work will live long with us.

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