In memoriam, Professor Thomas Kempner 1930-2016

12 September 2016

In memoriam, Professor Thomas Kempner 1930-2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Thomas Kempner, a former Principal of the Henley Management College.

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Thomas Kempner, a former Principal of the Henley Management College.

Born in 1930, Thomas led the College with great distinction between 1972 and 1990. During this 18-year tenure – the longest of any Henley Principal – he ensured that Henley remained at the forefront of management education and, just as importantly, financially buoyant.

Against a turbulent backdrop of social and economic change, including the miners’ strike and the energy crisis, more than one recession, Britain joining the EEC and the Falklands War, Thomas led this institution through a key period in our history, with real vision.

His innovations permeated the entire organisation, and were credited with: ‘catapulting the College from a small scale provider of management courses… to a global player in this field.’

He implemented changes that would shape business education for years to come, significantly developing Henley’s philosophy and being a driving force in the team that introduced MBAs, not least those that bore long-term relationships with the Civil Aviation Authority, IBM, Shell and many other corporate giants.

Thomas was responsible for the introduction of Henley’s innovative distance learning activities which proved to be immensely successful, not just financially but as a means of promoting Henley and our excellence globally. A lasting reminder of this is the fact that our Alumni network remains one of the largest in the world.

A portfolio of shorter courses was developed under his stewardship, with a much more flexible approach to learning methods, demonstrating Henley’s agility and responsiveness to change.

Thomas was a man of keen intellect and rare managerial ability. Prior to coming to Henley, he was responsible for the development of the Business School at Bradford University which he founded as an academically important part of a significant university. When running Henley, he remained true to the belief that great business schools should exist on a strong academic base and that this need in no way diminish its ability to work deeply with industry.

In 1983 he publicly predicted a period of growth and prosperity in the UK at a time when doom-and-gloom merchants prevailed. An article he contributed to the Daily Telegraph, entitled ‘Sighting the New Dawn’ was derided by many at the time, but proved to be remarkably prescient, reinforcing his reputation as a man of vast experience, deep knowledge and rare vision.

It should be said that his somewhat aloof, even autocratic, manner also defined much of the Greenlands style for his generation. Different though it now may be, this style is still remembered with admiration and much respect.

Those who knew Thomas will remember him as gentle but determined, a man who valued the wisdom of his contemporaries but had the strength of character and courage of his beliefs to lead from the front. It is a mark of the man that he is still spoken of in terms of admiration by those staff and alumni who knew him.

Thomas Kempner has left an indelible mark on Henley, and we are all grateful to him for the legacy that provided the remarkable foundation for today’s Business School.

A commemorative reception will be held at Greenlands on Monday 19 September at 3.30pm. If you knew Thomas and would like to attend, please contact Jilly Birks as we will be limited on numbers.


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If you have any questions, please contact Jilly Birks, PA to Professor John Board, Dean & Professor Ginny Gibson, Deputy Dean by email at or by phone on +44 (0) 1491 418771 or +44 (0) 118 378 7197.