Jeanie Cheah, Friend
Writing about a colleague who became and is still a friend is fraught with pitfalls. What if they do not have similar recollections or their reactions are different? What if you misjudge their sense of humour or your memories are an embarrassment? Take a deep breath, Andrew, and tell the world about one of the best.
Professor Bob, pictured above with Jeanie, and I had designed the University of Warwick Graduate Diploma in Service Leadership which the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) wanted to run in Singapore and the Singapore Government wanted to subsidise. It was Jeanie’s task as programme manager at SIM to liaise with the two of us and launch our shiny new Diploma.
Jeanie had to deal with two old blokes both twice her age, both with a set of assumptions about how you manage this sort of programme and we had been doing it for ages in the Uk. Singapore? What’s so different about that? Ten years on I still recall Jeanie’s huge smile, a smile of amusement, a smile of tolerance as she gently but firmly guided us to day one and beyond.
Nothing fazed her. Familiarisation sessions, liaising with students and their managers, graduation ceremonies, visiting lecturers, room bookings and layouts. Bob’s dietary requirements were a challenge “I don’t eat seafood”. Quietly without complaint Jeanie ordered chicken at the best seafood eateries until one day at my favourite*, where you can scatter my ashes, the party fell quiet and focussed on Bob intently working his way through a dish of deep fried prawns. Game, set and match to Jeanie.
I cannot recall how we discovered a mutual interest in classical music. I know I was excited about the Esplanade concert hall in Singapore designed by the same acoustician as Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, Russell Johnson. Now many happy evenings with Jeanie under the baton of Lan Shui are stored in the memory.
Sadly, Bob is no longer with us, taken prematurely by cancer, but the bond he helped me to cement with Jeanie is a joyful part of his legacy. A great friend 7,000 miles away in regular contact and a happy dimension of my life.
*Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, East Coast overlooking the glorious harbour, don’t miss it.