Our CEO, Hugh, has paid tribute to a ‘dedicated and resolute’ former chairman, John Bennett, who has sadly died following a short illness.
John, aged 76 years, of Hutton Rudby, was married to Alison - his wife of 55 years - and father to three sons Robin, Torquil and Rhuari as well as the proud grandfather to seven grandchildren. He became chairman of TVCF in 2005 and spent the next five years making a considerable impact on our grant giving organisation, which aims to empower communities to address disadvantage and exclusion in the Tees Valley.
“John made a huge impact on both the Foundation and me,” said Hugh. “Although he was here a relatively short time, he really was responsible for knocking the organisation into the professional outfit it is today with its governance, structure, policies and processes.
“I have very fond memories of my time working with John because we really were opposites,” he laughs. “He knew the Foundation needed an outward facing, sales-led person to fill the role as CEO, but he also knew that was going to cause him some discomfort!
“I’ve never met a more straight lines, black and white kind of thinker in my life and, to hire me, an ex-hippy, ex-salesman, drummer in a band – was really unbelievably brave because I drove him bit mad at times! He used to say, ‘I don’t understand how your mind works, Hugh!” he chuckles, reminiscing fondly.
“I really admired John; one of his most important legacies with the Foundation has to be Peat Rigg Outdoor Centre in North Yorkshire,” said Hugh. He had a vision and off he went into North York Moors and found a farmhouse, which was a holiday let at the time. He bought it and turned it into the centre that literally gives thousands of Teesside children life-changing experiences every year.
“Even when he stepped down, it was because he knew it was the right time – he was resolute,” said Hugh. “He came in one day and said ‘Hugh, I'm a process chairman. I'm a process person - now that the organisation is in shape, the Foundation needs a different character in its next chairman. That’s not me, so it's time for me to step down.”
“He’d done what he came to do and wasn’t interested in being in the position for any other reason,” he said. “We are all incredibly grateful for his legacy and the memories.”