Students Staff

25 November 2013

Tributes to Professor Peter Frank

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Tags: , , , — Communications Office @ 3:39 pm
Professor Peter Frank

Professor Peter Frank

Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow is among those who have paid tribute to Professor Peter Frank, who died on Thursday 14 November.

He told viewers at the end of last Tuesday’s evening news: “He was a great friend to many of us and will be sadly missed.”

Professor Frank was regularly on Channel 4 News during the 1980s and 1990s providing expert analysis during the collapse of the Soviet Union and in its aftermath.

Channel 4 Political Correspondent Michael Crick said via Twitter that Professor Frank was a “great expert on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. And a true gentleman.”

Many other former colleagues and students paid tribute online and via Twitter.

Journalist Mark Lloyd, who worked with Professor Frank during his time at Channel 4 News, said: “During the late 1980s and early 1990s when it seemed an impending catastrophe was unfolding in Eastern Europe he was the commentator that we reached out for.

“Newsrooms, especially before the smoking ban, tend to be rather untidy (if not downright slovenly) places. Yet Peter did not bat an eyelid as he perched next to a spilt coffee cup and overflowing ashtray to explain in simple terms what may or may not have been going on inside the Kremlin. And he put up with us fools with graciousness.

“His calm presence was a tonic. His smile was a ray of sunshine, and he always had one.

“Whenever crisis and panic threatened to overtake the headlines Peter was on hand to lend common sense and, in his interviews, gravitas, stability and immense knowledge.

“If the media is characterised as being ‘the first draft of history’, Peter took us, rather swiftly, to a better insight.”

Professor Frank’s funeral takes place on Monday 2 December at 2.45pm at Colchester Crematorium. The family have asked that there should be family flowers only but donations may be made to British Lung Foundation for research into pulmonary fibrosis, c/o Hunnaball of Colchester, York House, 41 Mersea Road, Colchester CO2 7QT.

3 responses to “Tributes to Professor Peter Frank”

  1. Martin Pearce says:

    A man of integrity who was always careful in drawing conclusions. Peter was passionate about Grimsby and its history and well as Russian politics. I recall him one seminar joking that a key motivator in him learning Russian was to avoid fighting in the war in Korea. He was passionate about Green issues. He had a great sense of humour and devised a lecture about humour in the Soviet Union including Krokodil cartoons (similar to Punch magazine).

    One joke he told us: Stalin who was a keen pipe smoker was walking around in his office when he realised he had misplaced his pipe. Stalin phoned Beria head of the NKVD (a precursor to the KGB) “Help, I have lost my pipe!” After putting the phone down Stalin went back to his chair and sat on his pipe.
    He immediately phoned Beria: “Comrade Beria, don’t worry I have found my pipe.”
    Beria: “But how can that be? 5 people have confessed already!”

    He taught me 1979-1981. He was an inspiring role model.

  2. charlotte primrose says:

    I first met Peter over thirty years ago when I was one of his students at Essex. He was a great teacher, and organised a fantastic trip to Russia for us.
    We kept in touch through Christmas cards after I graduated and I am so sorry to hear he has gone. A lovely man who will be much missed.

  3. deanna walker says:

    When I was a student the 1980s I had the privilege, and it was indeed a privilege, of going to the Soviet Union on a trip that Peter Frank was leading. The trip turned out to be one of the highlights of my student life as Peter was truly inspiring. His level of knowledge was incredible and yet he remained so modest. He dealt with all our naïve questions so graciously, building our confidence and making us think about things in different ways. Soon we were all sharing his infectious enthusiasm for his subject.
    Clearly I must have sung his praises to my parents because in the years after the trip I would often get phone calls from my mum saying, ‘Quick, turn on Channel 4. That nice Peter Frank is on the news again.’
    When I became an administrator at the university, our paths would sometimes cross on various committees or exam boards. He was always good humoured and took a common sense approach to matters. I don’t ever think I saw him without a kind smile on his face, and it was always a pleasure to work with him.
    I am naturally very saddened to hear of his death, and it has made me think about the influence he had on me. People often talk about the transformational impact that higher education can have on an individual. For me, that trip to the Soviet Union was an important moment in my life. Twenty five years later I can still remember the thrill of standing in a square in Leningrad on a crisp, sunny April morning listening to Peter telling tales of Lenin and the revolution. He was such a master story-teller that the whole group was enthralled. In that moment something changed in me and an inner confidence was unlocked. I reckon that’s a pretty powerful legacy for someone to leave behind them.

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