It is with great sadness that the School announces the death of our esteemed colleague Professor Sir John Hills. John was Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at LSE and the Chair of CASE (the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion). A brilliant scholar, a generous colleague and mentor, and a kind and modest man, he made tremendous contributions to social science and his work has had a major impact on social policy, especially in relation to poverty and inequality.
A full tribute to John will be shared in the coming days. Friends, colleagues and students can leave their memories and thoughts below.
My condolences to Sir Prof. Dr. John Hills family and colleagues. We will surely miss him.
My heaviest and sincerest condolences. A great loss of someone who did great things for social policy, his students, and human life generally.
John was a remarkable scholar and person; he was always encouraging and positive and his academic contributions were full of important insights. He helped to make our community in STICERD and CASE a place were people value and respect each other. John’s policy work combined compassion with hard-headed thinking. In short, he made a difference and the world was a better place because of what he contributed. Sincerest condolences to John’s family and friends.
Dearest John. I couldn’t believe the news today. There are the good ones and there are the great ones. Undoubtedly, you were one of the greatest minds of our time. The world will be much poorer without you. But you were also the loveliest man. However great work you were doing, your students, the next generation always came first. You always gave us your time. And you gave us perspective. You gave us confidence. You gave method to our thinking. You gave us the world. Where would I be without you now? Nowhere. Our love and caresses to your family, in these hard times, and let them know how much you were loved, by all of us.
Hi Anna, I stumbled across your post and was so touched by it it brought me to tears. Grandad John we all called him and I never quite knew how incredible he truly was in his field and just how respected. He was such a modest man at home, we knew he was always going to conquer us at a game of trivial pursuits and that we could ask him about anything and he would always take the time to explain in great detail, but he was a family man when we spent time with him, he switched hats so I never truly understood the extent of his importance and the impact/ great changes he really made,. but he did teach us the most important values, the values he believed were fair and important and brought us incredible joy with his creative and unique mind… his treasure hunts and games growing up were something one would only read from a book and chatting with him was always such a joy and so informative. This I will carry forward, we must all carry forward with us, along with his kind, generous, caring and loving spirit. His will and determination to create great change on this planet is something that truly inspires me and it is not quite clear to me whether you are a student or fellow colleague but if you are working in this field, please do take everything you have learnt from John and carry it forward with you to continue creating positive change. This is what he wanted, this is exactly why his students were so important to him, he knew these passionate people would continue his legacy and it’s so important that they do.
I hope you can continue to hold his spirit in mind and body as we the family are doing so. We are missing him dearly.
His grand-daughter – Jasmine Power
John leaves a huge hole behind him. He was inspirational to so many, and combined clarity of communication, an ability to grasp the big picture and the policy implications of his work with a precise understanding of details of measurement and their implications. He was imaginative in the ways he tried to get concepts across in intuitive ways, whether in the findings of the National Equality panel, or when demonstrating Penn’s parade to undergraduate offer-holders by means of a set of bamboo canes. He was also unfailingly generous in his time and kind in his support of students and colleagues. My thoughts are with Anne and his family, and all those who will now miss his encouragement and inspiration.
John had the rare combination of being both a remarkable scholar and a complete delight to work with. He was thoughtful and generous with his time and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him to create the III. My love goes to Anne and the family x
John saved my phd, and in doing so saved not only my research but opened my eyes to academia and to a friendship with him and Anne that changed my life. Having failed my first year, I threw myself at john in a chance encounter tearful at what to do next – he gently listened, firmly made me pull myself together and together with Anne helped me make it through to the finish line. Together their work continued to inspire and inform my own – sessions with them were always an intellectual treat as well as full of love and fantastic anecdotes. I feel truly honoured to have known him and desperately sad we have lost him – his legacy will live on with every student and scholar who found themselves drawn to his teaching and empowered to go out and change the world. Thank you john- your friends and family are in my heart.
I knew John a little over many years through a shared interest in social exclusion. He was always generous with his time and happy to listen to contrary views. His book setting out how we all put into and take out of the welfare state deserved to be much more widely discussed. I’m struggling to believe that such a lively and energetic presence has left us.
I first met John during our first term at university together 47 years ago. I have known him ever since in all his many aspects – as a rigorous scholar; a passionate advocate for social justice; a powerful and level-headed contributor to public policy; a committed and supportive teacher; a clear exponent of the realities of poverty and inequality; a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Most of all I have known him as the best of friends, whose loyalty and comradeship were unwavering. I will miss him enormously.
No one managed to combine rigorous scholarship, collegiality and compassion the way John did. He will be greatly missed by both the department and the School.
John was a towering talent and an extraordinarily kind and approachable man. He made an immense contribution to his subject whilst always finding time for his students and colleagues at LSE and elsewhere. His death is a terrible loss to the School and the social policy community in Britain and the wider world.
I knew John not well but consistently over time due to our shared interest in social exclusion. He was generous with his time and willing to engage in contrary views. His book Good Times Bad Times was highly illuminating and deserved to be more widely read. It’s hard to believe that someone with so much energy and enthusiasm is gone from us.
I was deeply saddened by the news of John passing. Words cannot express my sorrow. For me, John, was the most important advice-giver on an academic and on a personal level during my time at the LSE. His valuable person will be deeply missed and my thoughts are with his wife and his entire family. I am sending my best wishes from Germany. John will live in my memories forever.
I knew John from the national REF committee on which we worked in 2014, and had hoped to work again for the REF 2021. A great scholar, a warm and generous man. He will be greatly missed and my condolences go to his partner, family and immediate friends and colleagues (including his students).
John was incredibly good at grasping the essentials of complex social problems and thinking seriously about policies that could impact on them. He straddled academia and the social policy-making environment better than anyone I know, with some of the more visible examples being his landmark contributions to the Pension Commission, National Inequality Panel, and Fuel Poverty Commission. His “Good Times Bad Times” book explained in remarkably clear and accessible fashion the case for welfare states providing social insurance not only safety-net social assistance. The LSE’s International Inequalities Institute would not exist were it not for John’s inputs; and he was the central force behind the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy. Not that he would ever say so – John was remarkably modest. He was also incredibly kind and supportive of colleagues and students. He had strong values and lived according to them in a way few of us do. A great man, sorely missed. My thoughts go out to Anne and family.
I’m so sorry to hear that John Hills has passed away. He has touched so many lives with his kindness and generosity and it’s difficult to imagine a future without him. His contribution to social policy and social justice in Britain won’t be forgotten.
John’s work was inspirational, and he was incredibly supportive of the next generation of social policy scholars, myself included. He will be sorely missed but his academic legacy will live on.
Very sad to hear this news. John was a fabulous lecturer and inspiring scholar and also so approachable and kind. I remember he and Anne generously opening their house to all for a great party during my time at LSE 1995/6. Sincere condolences.
John was my academic mentor from 2017-2019. His warmth, openness, depth of knowledge and valuable advice will stay with me. His works were renowned, inspiring many students – from offer holders through to those studying at PhD level – to further probe the varied fields of social policy in which he led as an expert. I was lucky enough to receive his advice on inequality, housing and social exclusion in my final year. His legacy is large. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
John was a leading light on the Social Work and Social Policy REF 2014 sub-panel and was set to reprise this role for REF 2021 – a fair-minded and generous colleague, whose wisdom, thoughtfulness and good humour were an inspiration to us all. John will be deeply missed and we send our deepest condolences to his family and those closest to him. What a loss.
John lectured me in Social Economics & Policy in my first year at LSE. When I joined, I was extremely intimidated by the institution I was in, and intimidated by this subject that I had no prior experience in. Overwhelmed, and feeling all kinds of imposter syndrome, I sought regular help from John in multiple office hours. I knew he was brilliant academically, but these office hours revealed a gentleness & passion for students. I left every single meeting happier, more confident, and feeling more entitled to my place at the LSE than I was when I entered. It is only looking back that I realise how generous John was with his time, and how patient he was while I grasped bloody price elasticity. He really, genuinely cared about nurturing our progression, and as his work throughout his career demonstrated, this was because he firmly believed that we all had stakes in it.
John’s loss will be felt across the School, and I hope his legacy of unwavering kindness & passion lives on. I know it will, in fact, because he took the time to embed it.
Real hero. Sending all my love to his family & colleagues.
John Hills had a fine mind and a superb work ethic. That guaranteed him a successful academic career, conventionally measured. John was more than that, however. Unlike many first rate scholars, John loved teaching – including teaching first years – which many established scholars seek to avoid. John, in contrast, wanted to open young minds to the excitement of academic work done well. But John was even more than that. He was a good friend and a fine colleague. He encouraged me on any number of occasions, even though I was in a different department. And yet above all, John was a fine human being. He studied things not because they interested him, or it least not only for that reason. He studied things that matter to the country we live in. People sometimes say “it’s all academic” to mean that something does not matter. Nobody would ever say that of John’s work. Everything he did and everything he write, mattered, because he wrote only about topics of great importance. Anne’s loss is obviously greatest, but the LSE too has a lost one of its finest minds and colleagues, and the world of social science is diminished by his death.
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Im reading this as John’s sister- he was a wonderful brother and uncle, we are missing him so much. I have been very moved by all the comments, I knew he was an impressive scholar and teacher but it is so good that he had such a positive impact on so many people at all stages of their career, and that he was known as the lovely person he was as well as academically. Thank you
Such sad news. John was not just a leading scholar, illuminating complex issues with new insights and clarity, he was a kind, lovely, generous man, ever supportive of others. His contribution to the discipline of social policy will be long lasting. He made a difference and will be very much missed. Condolences to Anne, to his family, to his many friends, to his colleagues.
I met John 40 years ago, as a Planning Officer in Botswana. He stayed a wonderful friend ever since. He was a champion of truth and justice, a rock to his friends and family, a lover of the Lake District and cricket. And a planner of the most complex and believable treasure hunts for children. Such a lovely man
John was a wonderful man and is a great inspiration. It was while at LSE that we realised we had mutual connections with the ex-freedom fighters at Simukai in Zimbabwe. It is one thing to achieve great things in the field of social justice but another to combine such success with such a generous heart. For decades he generously supported me to discover and deepen my love of Lake Ullswater, Both John and Anne were very kind to me and I hope to honour John’s good soul by following Tara Brach’s maxim to ‘Pass it down the line.’
John remains in my memory a fine, charming and friendly colleague. A very warm person, intelligent, hardworking with a sincere social commitment and a great sense of humor. I will always cherish the memory of our work together.
John was a man who exemplified himself as a socially engaged scientist. The influence and impact he had on social policy in the UK and in Europe can’t be underestimated. His passing is an enormous loss to the whole international community of researchers dedicated to the fight against poverty and inequality. Many of his books will undoubtedly have a lasting influence for a long time to come.
Let it be a consolation that John has made an everlasting impression – both on students and researchers. They will carry with them his insights, strength, drive and continue on his work for generations to come. His name will now appear alongside those of the influential British social scientists as Rowntree, Titmuss, Townsend and Atkinson.
My sincere condolences to Anne, his family, friends and colleagues.
Thank you and so true
I’ve known John since our Cambridge days. When the student newspaper “Stop Press” was about to go bankrupt, he became business manager, sorted everything out, and the paper survived. A rival student publication referred to, “The Hills Economic Miracle”. Even back then he took his talents and applied them for the common good. What a loss.
So sorry to hear about John, and have been thinking about his huge influence and the lasting legacy he leaves behind him (and also rereading ‘Ends and Means’ which is still an excellent justification for the need for social housing on truly sub market rents to mitigate poverty. His recommendations seen even more relevant and prescient in 2020).
He was an academic whose impact was direct, practical and deep reaching. Not only could he provide rigorous evidence based research, but he made the case for humane policy interventions in an accessible and persuasive manner. The housing sector and social policy has lost a wise and generous champion.
Heartfelt condolences to Anne, his family, many friends, colleagues and students
I have just learnt about the death of Professor Sir John Hills whom I worked with in the Department of Social Policy over years till 2017. John stood as intellect who was easy to work, had humour and students spoke highly about him at all times as an approachable staff member.
I can say he made considerable contribution to a number of social policy courses and at international levels. May his soul rest in peace.
My condolences go to Anne, the family and friends.
A friend and neighbour, we frequently met at the shops at Highbury Barn. He talked to anyone and everyone, always enthusiastic and positive.
John Hills taught me the importance of making strong evidence accessible to the people so they can use it for good. Thank you. Your social policy leadership will be sorely missed.
John will be deeply missed for his human empathy, social commitment and contribution to academic and political life. With Anne, he set the highest standards for all of us who knew him and worked with him at LSE.
John Hills was a brilliant scholar, a tremendous academic scholar and colleague and a lovely person. He set standards that the rest of us marvelled at and struggled to attain. His impact here in Australia was as profound as nearer to home in the UK, Europe and at the LSE. I admired him, always learnt from his work, loved chatting and joking with him and will miss him.
John Hills will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with him. He was a brilliant scholar, public intellectual, and kind and generous colleague. My condolences to Anne and his family.
I first met John Hills in meetings where the International Inequalities Institute was being discussed and designed. He immediately impressed me with his combination of intellectual vision, practical leadership and the kindness of his interactions with the people around him. In subsequent years, I got to know John better and learnt to appreciate his abilities, vision and humanity even more. We will all miss John at the III and extend our most sincere condolences to his wife and family.
There are multiple accolades that have been awarded to John and his impressive scholarly and policy-oriented contributions have been well-attested to by others, here and elsewhere. Fundamentally, I remember John as a kind, thoughtful, and generous colleague and I will sincerely miss him. It is no exaggeration to say this is a huge loss for our department. We are so sad – for John’s loss, the loss for his family and friends, and for ourselves.
I do not remember many of my tutors from University, but I do remember John and Anne with respect and fondness. John believed in something good and worked for it. After leaving LSE and working in housing, I looked out for his work and insights as part of my continued professional development.
Anne – my thoughts are with you.
I was really shocked and very sad to have read the lengthy obituary of John in today’s Guardian as I had no idea that he had been so ill and had died just before Christmas at such a relatively young age.
I have some very happy memories of meeting him on a number of occasions especially when he was a member of the Pensions Commission. He was a brilliant scholar who had the unique ability of being able to explain complex social science issues in a way that was understandable to a layman like me.
The contribution that he has made to a number of public policy issues, including pensions reform, is very significant and there are many people who will now benefit from his work and the advice that he gave to Governments over the years.
He was very courteous and friendly to everyone he met and it was always a great pleasure to spend some time in his company.
His academic mind and advice will be sorely missed in these difficult times but he has left behind a legacy which will endure into the future.
My thoughts are with all of John’s family and those with whom he worked at the LSE.
I was utterly shocked to see John’s obituary in today’s Guardian. I am so sorry. John was a veritable giant within the academic Social Policy community and leaves an unsurpassable scholarly legacy. His untimely passing is a tragic and inestimable loss.
Stunned and saddened to read of John Hill’s passing. What an incredibly good, kind, decent and fair man. I knew John through the LSE free public lectures which mean so much to so many. When I got a call last spring from a friend who works with a homeless group, asking if I knew anyone who spoke Korean who might help translate for a homeless asylum seeker who spoke no English at all, my first thought was to ask John Hills if he knew anyone. Despite the lockdown, he answered his phone and made some enquiries. The homeless man who had been so alone, unable to communicate, was no longer alone thanks to John’s response and willingness to connect with people and bring them together.
John was a towering and inspirational figure among LSE academics. He drove forward a hugely important project on Social Policy and Distributional Outcomes, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, and helped his colleagues to give it remarkable direction and depth. The poor, the deprived, the sick, the imprisoned and the under-educated are all the losers from his early death. He understood how to give political and public clout to academic social science . He is a great loss.
Anne, you and your family are in our thoughts.
I can’t say how saddened I am to hear this news. John was wonderful, not just as a scholar but as a generous and kind person. I so benefited from working with him and loved his sense of humour. He will be so missed. And I send my deepest condolences to Ann and his family: I am so sorry for your loss.
A real loss to public policy analysis. My thought are with his family and friends at this difficult time
John was a superb scholar, teacher, researcher and mentor. He will be sadly missed but his contributions to social policy and sociology will endure. So sad to have lost when he still could have contributed more to the field. My condolences to his family and LSE. May his beautiful soul respect in peace.
I heard of John’s untimely death just before Christmas. It was a terrible shock and such a sad end to a difficult year. John was one of the very best Social Policy researchers and a great ambassador for the role research could play in promoting progressive policy change. More than any other academic I knew he had the enviable ability to make even the most complex data analysis readily understandable to a wide audience, and the commitment to ensure that it reached them. He was, as others have said, kind and considerate to all he worked with, and modest about his own considerable achievements. His legacy should be that all working in policy and academia seek to follow his example.
I am very saddened to learn of John’s death. As a member of the professional staff at LSE, working on funding for the PhD students at the International Institute of Inequalities, I very much enjoyed being part of seeing the III establish and develop. John was a pleasure to work with on the funding panels, and the meetings usually involved an informal discussion where he gave his assessment of the issues of the day, from which I learned a lot. My condolences to Professor Power and the rest of the family.
I remember my first seminar with John Hills as part of my Masters course in 2000 – I was delighted and excited to be part of such an interesting course, guided by really amazing scholars. His approach to his work influenced me tremendously. A few years ago I got in touch with him about my research and was buoyed up by his interest. Grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him.
John was a great thinker, actor and contributor to the understanding of social protection from his LSE base. He also contributed to teaching at the OU and will be much missed.
John Hills was an impressive scholar with an unrivalled understanding of the policy-making process. His approach was invariably positive, his guidance to students clear, and his advice to colleagues thoughtful. He was always keen to share his work widely and make it accessible, as with his last LSE public lecture hosted by the Department of Social Policy: ‘Britain and the Welfare State in the 21st Century: a more or less “irresponsible society”?’ His legacy will live on. His untimely death is a great loss to the Department of Social Policy, to the LSE and to the field of Social Policy. My thoughts are with Anne and his family.
I did some work with John in Botswana some 40 years ago when I was with Commonwealth Secretariat and he was an ODI Fellow. We met now and again since then at Mokoro seminars in Oxford. I was very shocked and saddened to read of his untimely death. I remember him as a kind and talented man, insightful and full of enthusiasm. What a tragedy that he should be taken from us so soon. My thoughts and sympathies are with his family and friends.
I share the grief of those who have responded to John’s death and find it difficult to put that into words. But what he leaves for the long term is a remarkable record – academic and policy impact certainly, but above all his humanity and the support and encouragement he gave to younger colleagues, and indeed to older ones like myself when my wife became ill. The joy he got from his beloved Lakes and passed onto to our children and grandchildren. All of these gifts to us will live on.
Picking up on Howard’s mentioning of his beloved Lakes – I wanted to share my favourite story about John that might bring a smile on your faces. I was John’s assistant in CASE for many years, and during the time when he was charing the National Equality Panel. He enjoyed the work very much, but given his work ethic, he took on a lot, and he was very exhausted by the end. There was a big Friday deadline, after which he was supposed to head off to the Lakes, and he was very much looking forward to it. Being a true warrior in the fight against climate change, walking, cycling or taking public transport everywhere he could, he was supposed to catch an afternoon train and get to the station by bus. So this Friday he handed in the work, got himself together, and came up to my desk to say goodbye. He had a big smile on his face, and off his was, out on the street, walking in the sunshine with his long dynamic steps. A good 10-15 minutes passed, when he turned up by my desk again, sweaty, with an embarrased and puzzled face, and told me he was back to get his bags because somehow he had left without them. He had one of the most structured minds of our time – definitely Nobel prize category – but there he was, lost in the moment, forgetting about everything, enjoying the sunshine and looking forward to turning the key in the door of his Ullswater home. I could not hide the irony of the moment, we laughed, he shook his head, and off he was again, like a storm.
What a lovely happy comment . I expect he caught the train though often arrived at last minute, when we went to see our mother or sister on south coast I was always leaning out of window at front, having been on train for ages, while he dashed on at the back. He was always equipped with a rucksack which had work, newspaper, and a thermos of tea with separate milk. On walks there would be sandwiches and something waterproof to sit on and all sorts of other useful things.
There you go, that was the bag he left in the office 🙂
Thank you for sharing. Currently at London Bridge station there is an exhibition of photographs one of them is of a boat house on Lakes Ullswater. John and Anne’s generosity introduced to the beauty of Ullswater over 2 decades of visits. I could spend the whole week traversing the lake on steamer it was restful for the soul.
I was so sad to hear of John’s death and the loss of such a kind man. Deepest condolences to Anne and the rest of John’s family, as well as to the many friends and colleagues who will miss him.
I am very sad to hear this news and feel privileged to have known John at an early stage in my career. Sincere condolences to his loved ones and colleagues at LSE.
I was shocked to learn of John’s death at such a relatively early age. It is very sad news. John patiently educated me and many others on social policy over decades. I was Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he was working on the Pensions Commission and he was always keen to exchange ideas to help create a cross-party consensus so that their proposals would last. Later he served on our intergenerational commission at the Resolution Foundation and his work on the net lifetime contributions or withdrawals of different age cohorts was important for our analysis. He was always courteous, comprehensible, clear, considerate – and not a conservative! But his formidable understanding and great personal qualities meant that his influence was felt across the political spectrum. He is up there in the pantheon of the LSE’s great thinkers in social science and social policy.
I couldn’t agree more David. John was very instrumental in ensuring there was cross-party consensus on the Pension Commission’s reform of the UK’s pension reform.
This is such a saddening news. John was a truly gentle man, a committed teacher and a great and impactful social policy scholar. He’ll be fondly remembered.
Deeply saddened by John’s passing. I loved working with him. John was an incredibly special person who cared so much for his students and for all his colleagues. He always went the extra mile to look after his students and get to know them and, it seemed to me, always approached Department issues with fairness, clarity and viewing all angles of a situation. I will really miss him – you don’t come across people like John all too often. Rest in Peace, John. Will always remember you so fondly and sending all my love to Anne and your family. Clare x
Somehow I missed the news that John has died and share the sense of a terrible loss that so many expressed. I will always remember how he introduced a talk about the findings and recommendations of the Pensions Commission on which he served. He said that when he started, a man of his age and socio-economic class had the life expectancy of (say) 82. A year later, the revised predictions about life expectancy would give him a life expectancy of 83. And he repeated it once more. His conclusion was: ‘I have not used up any of my lifetime working for this Commission!’ This sums up John for me. He always had a memorable, often funny anecdote that captured precisely the problem motivating his research (here: our uncertainty about the change in longevity). He was enthusiastic to make a contribution to everything he researched (virtually every big social problem). And, above all, he had a wonderful sense of self-deprecating humour combined with modesty (he had not really spent any time working for this Commission when we all know how hard he worked, apparently effortlessly). Many of us at LSE will miss him. My condolences to all who were close to him.
thank you great share.
Unexpected and untimely. An incredibly sad loss for the research community.
John Hills legacy will continue to inspire our future research agendas in multiple and different ways. His work is a compass. His reminder that “Taxation and social spending are two of the most powerfull influences we have on distribution, and their impacts on poverty and inequality are central to their appraisal” in Inequality and the State (2004:2), will continue to provide guidance.
The term ‘national treasure’ is thrown around too easily sometimes. But John was a national treasure. A great thinker and communicator, a deeply ethical man, and a generous colleague and friend. To all of us working in the Social Exclusion Unit in its early days, John and Anne’s work offered the clearest possible starting point for understanding and action. John capitalised brilliantly on a historical moment when poverty and exclusion finally came into focus, and he did so much to help the whole of government understand what they were dealing with and who might be able to help them. John’s reputation led to more opportunities, and the chance to shape the debate on many difficult public policy issues under governments of different political persuasions. John leaves a huge impact on public policy, and an enormous sense of loss amongst all his colleagues and friends. It was a privilege to know and work with him. Sending all my love to Anne and all John’s family.
John was exceptionally welcoming and supportive of everyone and whatever the issue. He will be so very greatly missed. My condolences to the his family.
I am so shocked and saddened by the news of John’s death. I became the very first student on LSE’s MSc Social Research Methods back in the early 90s, directly because of John’s support. John taught me on one module and supervised my MSc dissertation, which he encouraged me to publish. I also worked for Anne for a while and would meet John informally occasionally that way. I think I was probably a bit of a handful truth be told but received nothing but support and encouragement, for which I remain exceptionally grateful. I second everyone else’s comments about his generosity, kindness, modesty and brilliance – a role model both professionally and as a human being. It was so lovely to see him and Anne again when I returned to work at LSE a handful of years back (after years away mainly doing practical policy research). My heartfelt condolences go out to Anne and all the family.
I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have known John and to have been able to have called him a colleague. And what a colleague he was. An exceptional scholar who wore his learning lightly. His achievements were matched by his modesty and his generosity. A serious man, with an ever-ready smile, he treated everybody with equal respect and kindness. He was in so many ways a role model. I’ve always felt one learns a huge amount about academics from how they treat their students. John was a hugely impressive teacher, was full of enthusiasm and, predictably, took as much time focusing on students’ welfare as on academic achievement. He was in many respects the quintessential social policy scholar. All his work sought to understand and to mitigate social problems, to tackle social inequality, and to improve people’s lives. He appeared to move seamlessly between academic, policy and political worlds – largely I suspect because he was very straightforwardly the same person in each. When John and I met in recent times our conversations would increasingly turn to our mutual love of the Lake District. I can’t now remember what first got us on to the subject – possibly it was bumping into John and Anne one summer when, quite by accident, we booked a cottage for a week that turned out to be next door but one to theirs in Glenridding. It seems to me that John’s contribution to our understanding of contemporary British social policy was rather akin to Alfred Wainwright’s impact on our understanding of the fells.
Somehow I missed this sad news. I was privileged to know John though LSE Health. Always had time to stop and listened my views on poverty and exclusion. He was always supportive of my swimming and cycling ambitions.
Sending my fondest wishes to Anne and family.
I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have known John and to have been able to have called him a colleague. And what a colleague he was. An exceptional scholar who wore his learning lightly. His achievements were matched by his modesty and his generosity. A serious man, with an ever-ready smile, he treated everybody with equal respect and kindness. He was in so many ways a role model. I’ve always felt one learns a huge amount about academics from how they treat their students. John was a hugely impressive teacher, was full of enthusiasm and, predictably, took as much time focusing on students’ welfare as on academic achievement. He was in many respects the quintessential social policy scholar. All his work sought to understand and to mitigate social problems, to tackle social inequality, and to improve people’s lives. He appeared to move seamlessly between academic, policy and political worlds – largely I suspect because he was very straightforwardly the same person in each. When John and I met in recent times our conversations would increasingly turn to our mutual love of the Lake District. I can’t now remember what first got us on to the subject – possibly it was bumping into John and Anne one summer when, quite by accident, we booked a cottage for a week that turned out to be next door but one to theirs in Glenridding. It feels to me that John’s contribution to our understanding of contemporary British social policy was rather akin to Alfred Wainwright’s impact on our understanding of the fells.
What a massive loss to his family, his department and the world of social policy. John’s work stands as an indispensable, powerful and forensic defence of social justice. He will be so badly missed.
It was with huge sadness that I have learnt of the death of Professor John Hills. John was my PhD supervisor in the Department of Social Policy at the LSE. John was an excellent supervisor, with one of the sharpest minds I have ever encountered. His understanding of Social Policy was beyond parallel. He was extremely conscientious, always marking my draft chapters within a week, as he had promised to do, often reading them on the train to the Lake District. I used to have my supervisions in his office at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), which had a map of the Lakes on the wall, each peak marked to indicate whether he had climbed it and how often. I completed my PhD in 2010 and I am extremely grateful to John for his guidance and immense wisdom. I think of him often and will remember him always. Dr Linda Pickard, Associate Professorial Research Fellow (retired), PSSRU (Personal Social Services Research Unit), now CPEC (Care Policy and Evaluation Centre), LSE.
Since learning about John’s death, memories have kept bubbling up, going back to the glory days of STICERD’s Welfare State Programme in the late 1980s, when John was one of a galaxy, including co-directors Tony Atkinson, Howard Glennerster and Julian Legrand. Like the others, John was co- equally committed to intellectual rigour and good personal relationships – above all his ready support and advice to younger colleagues who subsequently went on to make their own mark. I have fond memories of his enthusiastic participation in a ‘works outing’ – a day trip to Calais for everyone involved in the programme.
My analysis of the welfare state emphasised its role redistributing across a person’s lifetime, e.g. from ones younger to ones older self. John brought that analysis to life by looking at the numbers, culminating in his 2017 book, Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us, that in his customary vivid way comprehensively holed the ‘them and us’ narrative below the water line. Our work also overlapped on pensions, where the 2005 Pensions Commission, of which John was one of three members, introduced two hugely important reforms: the idea that the basic state pension should not be below the poverty line (a return to the Beveridge conception), and a workable proposal for simple pension saving plans, eventually introduced as NEST pensions. Both elements – as with so much of John’s work – had a heavy focus on less well-off members of society.
Other memories of John’s many contributions include his care and generosity as a PhD supervisor, and his leading role on the School’s REF Strategy Committee.
What always shone through were his deep principles – family, personal and professional relationships, and a huge social conscience, including his well-known reluctance to fly.
So many of us – above all his family – feel a personal sense of loss, but an additional sadness is the loss of his continuing work to improve the lives of others. In our last extended conversation, over lunch about a year ago, though making plans to step back from full time, he was very much in full cry, with lively plans for future work, together with more time for his and Anne’s beloved Lakes. It is sad at so many levels that none of that will now happen, but those he inspired will continue that work.
Thank you for sharing so much about John. He was an extremely generous man and introduced me to the joys of lakes Ullswater.
It was an honour to teach for and learn from Professor John Hills. He was an inspiring professional, dedicated mentor and incredibly kind person. A great example of an academic that works with passion for a better world. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.
I will miss working with John – who was a thoughtful colleague was always well-prepared for any meeting he attended. More importantly, I will miss having informal discussions with John. I learned so much about social policy, British culture and many other things from just stopping by John’s office to chat. My thoughts go to Anne and the rest of John’s family.
I was so sorry to learn that Johns Hills had died. He and I were contemporaries and I was on the management team of a London housing association in the1980’s when he was on the voluntary management board. So I was an early beneficiary of his wise counsel. Nearly forty years on, that wisdom will be much missed in these testing times and their aftermath.
John in my experience was one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have met at LSE or indeed anywhere. He wore his eminence with complete lightness and an innate modesty, but his focus and dedication were really marvellous to experience close up. We had very different disciplinary backgrounds, but he welcomed me into the III family. He was a truly remarkable man, as both his publications and his way of treating others showed, and he leaves a chasm with his passing.
John Hills was an incredibly engaged, lively, kind, alternately serious and funny, and completely devoted husband to my mum, bonus father to us, and grandfather to our children. He dedicated much of his spare time to helping us achieve, from getting his head around grandchild Lucia’s A’level biology to reading and providing ever such helpful comments on my PhD thesis about babies and birth! We will love him forever, and miss him forever; and it’s heartwarming to know that he was also loved and admired by everyone who had the good fortune to be his colleague, friend or student.
Like the writings of Adam Smith, John Hill’s academic work was a very fruitful refutation of the claim (still prevalent in certain quarters) that the the study of ‘social’ policy was incompatible with the study of genuine ‘economics’ . His research interests inspired not just economists, but historians, sociologists, social-policy practitioners, and analysts of wider cross-cultural movements in the contemporary world. But he was also a very modest man, who I think would have been surprised by the interest shown in his work by practitioners of other disciplines.
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I have not felt able to post a message on this until now. I don’t think I realised how important John was to me until he was no longer with us. I have worked with him since the mid 1980s when we set up the Welfare State Programme under the direction of Tony Atkinson. I had never met someone quite like him: a man of such depth of understanding, coupled with a human warmth and a positively inhuman level of energy that was unparalleled in my experience. Of course, he was a brilliant academic and a key policy influencer, but he was so much more than that: an exemplar of how to live a decent principled, caring life. The only consolation is that I still have a kind of inner John – a bank of memories that I can consult to help when confronted with the kind of academic, policy and political problem that we so often faced together. At least in that respect his wisdom and depth of understanding will live on.
I just got to know today about the passing of prof. Hills. It is certainly unexpected and sad. I had the privilege to learn from him during my year at the Msc Social Policy programme (by research) in 2012-2013. A thoughtful professor, passionate for the subject and always willing, and fully commited, to explain and discuss topics, questions, in a clearly and thouroughfully fashion. I learnt from his rigour and intellectually stimulant lectures. My condolences to Professor Power and the rest of the family.
I never knew John personally. But as an LSE Social Policy alumna and with my whole career spent in putting social policy and administration into practice through the public services and third sector organisations I worked for, I can testify to the huge place that John filled and the massive hole he leaves. It was not only what he contributed but his ability to communicate it, reaching parts that others do not reach. He was the Titmuss of his generation. My thoughts are so much with Anne and all those close to him.
I am lucky enough to have had Professor John Hills as a professor. Beyond being an inspiring lecturer, I fondly remember speaking to Professor John Hills about biking in London. The conversation was prompted by us both carrying biking helmets. I remember feeling cheerful afterwards and that our Social Policy department truly is a home.
My condolences to his family,
News travels slowly east to China but the shock of such bad news is no less distressing when it arrives. I Googled for John’s latest thoughts as I always do when starting on a new topic. Now we shall have to make do with his last thoughts and be lost for someone uniquely able to make the complex appear to be simple. John was a great force for good in a world that needs goodness close to power more than ever. My condolences to Anne, family and friends.