Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE remembers Baroness Tessa Jowell
I shed more than a wee tear on Sunday at the passing of the wonderful Tessa Jowell. I first met Tessa in 1997 when I was at the Health Education Authority for England and she took up her role as Minister for Public Health in the new Labour Government. Passionate in her commitment to reduce inequalities in health, Baroness Jowell was pivotal in championing the Sure Start campaign to deliver better early-years care for all babies and their families but especially for those from the poorest of backgrounds. Sure Start is a network of centres with the aim of giving children the very best possible start in life through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support.
Her work in the same ministerial role on tackling unwanted pregnancies in young women was as ground-breaking and impactful as it was controversial and difficult. Tessa Jowell never shied away from a difficult challenge. What so impressed me about her at the time was the way she insisted on meeting regularly with young mothers and young women of school age to hear their stories and reflect on what this should mean for government policy.
A thoughtful, respectful, caring and effective politician, she was so very special. I met her for the last time just two years ago at a joyful celebration of her Honorary degree award from her alma mater, and mine, Aberdeen University. She and her husband David were on tremendous form. We hugged, reminisced and agreed we should plan to work together for health promotion in Africa. Sadly, this could not come to pass.
Tessa’s extraordinary intellect, warmth, empathy and ability to make the world a better place, touched so many lives. Her sense of purpose and duty remains an inspiration to us all.