Monday, 01 March 2010
We regret to announce the death of Sue Rayner, Director of Communications at the University. Sue had been battling cancer since autumn 2009 and died on Saturday 27 February 2010.
Sue was a consummate professional who radiated a calm and authoritative influence over the University's communications for 16 years. She encouraged the University to invest in its reputation management and public profile and spearheaded the growth of the Communications Department at the University, from its origins of one Information Officer to encompass a department of ten. She was immensely proud of the team that she developed and nurtured and which now covers the full range of communications functions required in a modern university.
As a trusted advisor to colleagues across the University, Sue inspired total confidence. She was a terrific listener, full of empathy, tact and insight, generous with her time and always happy to offer wise advice although she would never force it on anyone. She demonstrated remarkable loyalty and commitment to both her colleagues and the University through good times and bad and her mischievous and irreverent sense of humour was an invaluable asset, especially in times of crisis.
Sue was passionate about the breadth and range of work undertaken across the University, in both the academic and non-academic spheres. She took enormous pride and pleasure in communicating the achievements at the University through her role. Her work brought her into contact with staff from every corner of the University and, in many cases, her professional relationship with colleagues also created long-lasting friendships. She truly cared for those that worked with her and her immediate colleagues benefited immeasurably from her philosophy of empowering people. She had an innate trust in the people around her and an encouraging "you can do it" philosophy.
Sue grew up in Zimbabwe and throughout her life part of her always yearned for her African skies. She trained as a librarian there before starting work in the National Archives of Zimbabwe. From Zimbabwe, she came to Reading, via a brief stay in the USA, and she undertook a BA in History and Classics at our University between 1979 and 1982, followed by an MA in Medieval Studies. She combined raising a family locally with a successful career in journalism over the following decade, becoming Chief Reporter on the Reading Chronicle and also personal archivist to Lord Sherfield, the Chancellor of the University.
Her first post at the University was that of part-time Information Assistant in 1994 in the then Registrar's office and by 1998 she had progressed to Communications Manager. Her tremendous writing skills, founded in her journalistic expertise, led to many thoughtful and wonderfully-crafted articles in University publications over the years. In tandem, she managed to find time to return to education. She completed a Higher Certificate in Archaeology, a Diploma in Typography and a second MA in Archaeology.
With her husband Chris she regularly opened up her home to friends and colleagues, offering hospitality and genuine warmth. Once inside, the evidence of her bookworm tendencies and prolific knitting were much in evidence.
Sue's indomitable spirit ensured she rode the highs and lows that come with the communications territory and she was convinced that hurdles would eventually be overcome through strength of argument, persistence and a belief in the right way to do things. This philosophy sustained her as she bravely fought her illness, stoically refusing to complain and determined to carry on as normal for as long as she could.
The maxim inscribed above her desk reads "Attaining modest yet far from inconsequential goals." Sue was determined to do an important job to the best of her abilities and to encourage those around her and throughout the University to always strive to communicate as openly as possible. In her own gentle and terribly modest way, she represented the University with distinction. While she always played down her success, her achievements have been of real and lasting consequence to the University.
We extend our sympathy to her husband Chris, who also works at the University, as well as her three children, two grandchildren and her many, many friends at the University and beyond. Sue was much loved and will be sorely missed.