A Tribute To The Mischievous Professor (My Dad)

My beloved “Daddy” died this week.

At first, I thought I couldn’t face writing a blog post, but as the Beatles said – “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.”

And come to think of it,  The Leader’s Digest has always been like a dear friend to me, a way for me to make sense of the world.

So apologies in advance if today’s post is slightly self-indulgent.

My Dad – the archetypal bumbling professor – was a complex, kind and incredibly intelligent man.

This is what he believed:

He believed it was OK to be mischievous, as long as you were kind.

He believed in creativity – his PhD in the 70’s was testament to his ‘ahead of the times’ approach to divergent thinking. He knew that when we rejected black and white reasoning and instead, toyed with the concept of “no right answer” – creativity and brilliance was unleashed.

My father believed in art. He taught me how to look at a painting. How To REALLY look at a painting. He showed me how art can soothe the soul, lift our spirits and connect us to one another. He showed me how art can teach us so much, if we only allow it.

My father believed in the power of believing in others.

As a professor of education, he believed in his students.

He believed in my brothers.

And he believed in me.

One of my earliest memories was of him kneeling down beside me, holding my hand,  looking earnestly into my eyes and saying with such conviction – “you can do anything you put your mind to Suzi!”

Now if that isn’t leadership right there, I don’t know what is.

My father was also delightfully flawed. He could be as stubborn as a tired toddler. He lied through his teeth. He thought vegetables were completely overrated and that a good whiskey and a block of chocolate were a far better choice-thank-you-very-much.

Dad was a dichotomy. He suffered from some form of low-level humming anxiety for much of his life. And yet, he could be totally fearless and adventuresome – traipsing mum, my two brothers and me around Europe in the 70’s in nothing but a pup tent, a Morris Marina and gung-ho spirit of adventure.

My Daddy was a good, kind man.

It strikes me that this, in all its simplicity, has become somewhat underrated?

There’s something that has softened in me since Dad died a few days ago.

Like the torrent-river waters that mould sharp rocks into soft polished stones, grief kisses the kinks out of our hearts.

As my sorrow catches my breath and brings me to my knees, this grief also gently, nudgingly, returns me to what matters.

Love is what matters.

Love is what matters.


  1. Michelle on March 4, 2016 at 3:18 am

    Such a beautiful tribute to your Dad Suzi, so sorry to hear your news… it’s such a difficult time I know – take care, thinking of you, Michelle Pickett x

  2. Nick Jessett on March 3, 2016 at 6:57 am

    A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Thinking of you. Nick

  3. Anonymous on March 3, 2016 at 4:35 am

    So true Suz. It puts life and what is important into perspective for sure.

  4. Mary Hanna on March 3, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Suzi the way you have written this encapsulates so many of the reasons why your Dad loved you so much, was so proud of you, and why you were so close. What a treasure to have had that kind of relationship – for both of you. xx mares

  5. Jeanie on March 3, 2016 at 1:58 am

    What a beautiful tribute. You have a great gift to put profound feelings into words. x

  6. Juanita on March 3, 2016 at 12:20 am

    Beautiful post Suzi. Your dad would be so proud of it. My thoughts are with you. Juanita

  7. Anonymous on March 3, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Beautiful words Suzi that are swathed in the love you shared with your Dad. Wonderful memories that will never fade. Kia Kaha. Fiona x

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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