Lancaster University

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PhD in palliative care funded by legacy from Lancaster alumnus

07/07/2011 00:00:00

​The widow of a Lancaster alumnus has funded a PhD in Palliative Care student with a legacy from her late husband Richard Walters. Richard died from cancer in 2010 aged 57, leaving £17,000 to Lancaster University where he was a student of physics from 1971-1974. The money, topped up to £20,000 by his widow Alison, is being used to fund a five-year PhD studentship in Palliative Care at the International Observatory on End Of Life Care.

Alison explained: “The quality I said I would most want to see in the recipient would be passion for the subject and on meeting Debbie, I could see she had this in abundance.  She is all I could have wished for and more.  A friendship has begun. We are united in knowing the quality of end of life care matters and that this time of sadness and heartache can also be a time of great closeness.”

Debbie Hayden is currently a lecturer at Our Lady’s Hospice and Care services in Dublin where she is doing the PhD by distance learning.
“This bursary means the difference between doing the PhD and not doing it but meeting Alison makes it more special. We exchanged gifts and got on so well - there was a real bond between us. I lost my mother recently so we both know how vital palliative care is.”

Alison said it had brought her immense comfort that Richard’s name will live on.
 “It has given Richard the opportunity to say thank you, as he would have wanted, to those wonderful people in palliative care who helped us then and have helped me since. This bursary honours their work.
 It has given a voice to a story to which I feel a responsibility, a personal tragedy with a universal message- medicine cannot cure all and high quality palliative care matters. “

Whilst at Lancaster, Richard pursued his passion for climbing in the Lake District. On graduating, he followed a lifelong career in IT but continued his love affair with mountains. In 1977, he was part of a British team of seven that attempted to climb the Barnaj in the Himalayas, a hitherto unconquered peak. Throughout his life, mountains remained a source of joy and Alison explained this informed her present to Debbie.

“Debbie may need inspiration for her studies. I have given her a picture of Richard standing on a peak looking into the distance, the image that inspired my vision of what a good death meant for him. I am now fading into the background so Debbie can concentrate on her studies but we will meet again next year when she comes to Lancaster for intensive courses.
“The pinnacle of this project will be when I am there clapping at the graduation ceremony to see Deborah Hayden, funded by the Richard Walters bursary, receive her PhD.”