Words of tribute to the late Allan Gibb, a pioneer of entrepreneurial education

Allan’s celebration of life has now been confirmed for Noon on Jan 24th at the Lindisfarne Centre at St Aidan’s College Durham University. If you would like to attend can you please email Gay Haskins or Dinah Bennett.


There can be very few of us in entrepreneurial education research or practice who have not heard the name of Professor Allan Gibb. Indeed, I wonder how many PhDs have been written on the topic that do not at some point, reference one of his many contributions.

Sadly, just before Christmas we lost Allan and with him, some of the deeply rooted understandings he had developed at Durham, through NCEE and of course with ISBE and beyond. Some well-known and highly respected researchers in the field have been reflecting on his contribution, and I am pleased to be able to share a few of these with you here. I shall start with Luke Pittaway, who had recently thanked Allan on the occasion of his 80th birthday, using these words,

“I wanted to say thank you also for all of your mentorship over the years and of course for your outstanding contributions to the entrepreneurship education and learning field.  It has been truly great to work with you on the projects we have had a chance to do together and there is no doubt your work has significantly impacted and contributed to mine over the years.  We are both lucky to have a passion for something in our professional lives, and what better than to have a focus on entrepreneurship and small business management.  You’ve done amazing work and I have appreciated the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Many others have mourned the loss of a great scholar, a great friend and above all, a great mentor who always had time to share his thoughts and consider other’s perspectives.

“An immense loss professionally and personally. Like for so many others he was my guiding light, my mentor and a true inspiration. I shall miss him. He has left us with such a legacy. My sincere condolences go out to his family.” Paul Hannon

“Allan was one of the first scholars I cited in my PhD. One thing I will always remember is his proclamation that ‘trying to teach entrepreneurship using traditional methods was like learning to drive using the rear mirror. How right he was.” Collette Henry

“Very sad news. When I first moved to Durham Allan used to take us all out to dinner on Boxing day. He was an inspiration.” David Kirby

“Sad news indeed, a giant has gone” Colin Jones

When news broke on social media, similar comments were very soon expressed. Allan and his work have had such a significant impact on so many people’s perspectives and approaches worldwide, and they all echoed the same level of respect and dare I say, admiration. These few extracts from Twitter offer a flavour of what was said as the news about Allan spread around the world, so we would like to share to celebrate their insights.

“He was an inspiring individual who could also play a mean tune on a piano.” Neil Coles

“A big loss to #ented, one of the pioneering forces that shapes our understanding of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Muhammad Nizam Zainuddin

“He kept pinging me what papers I should read for the next 3 years. A warm soul, a dry wit and a crystal mind.” Ed Gonsalves

“A dear friend and a huge influence on my work since his IEEP mentorship in 2008… what he did for and with us!” Katie Wray

“Amazing insights into what could be, and what was needed.” Tony Gibben

“Sad news! Although he is no longer with us, his strong influence on the field will continue.” Mohsen Tavakoli

“Allan enabled people like me, from industry, to contribute to SMEs and entrepreneurship in the NE and to enjoy working with, and learning from, academics. Eternally grateful.” Richard Hannage

“So sad to hear we have lost Allan. Always inspiring challenging and guiding us to be better #ented So many fun memories to cherish.” Carol Langston

“Learned so much and enriched my research” Vanina Farber

“One of the founding fathers of #ented who helped shape a field of research and professional practitioners. Thank you for your contribution, your patience and your humour.” Jon Powell

“He laid a foundation for so much and so many to grow. I was lucky to meet and work with him almost 15 years ago. His legacy lives on.” Shima Barakat

“So sad to read this, an inspirational man who left a massive legacy.” Carolyn Parry

“An inspiring person and a great contributor to enterprise education” Ruud Koopman

“A true enterprise educator who was passionate about helping others and helped us all understand the importance of enterprise education. Such fun time remembered.” Sue Poole

“He was such a pioneer. Every time I get an idea I like, I can be sure that Allan has already written about it ages ago.” Martin Lackéus

“Allan was a lovely guy. Straight talking but always approachable. He also made enterprise education more easily understood and accessible for all, especially for those who didn’t have his years of insight and experience.” Paul Blackmore

“A real gentleman and someone who really shaped the field. Such a loss” Sarah Jack

“So very sad, a great #ented pioneer” Nigel Adams

#ented and NCEE Entrepreneurial Leaders owes him a huge amount.” Lesley Dobrée

“His legacy will live on in the whole #ented community and futures of enterprise students.” James Barnham

“Amazing to think the reach one person, & he in particular, has had. That’s some legacy.” Charlotte Carey

Perhaps three comments help to sum up the vast number of online sentiments, and help us to understand what Allan achieved. Firstly, as Gareth Trainer, Chair of Enterprise Educators UK, explained:

“As a local lad, I experienced many of Allan’s discussions & debates, every one provoking new thoughts. He lit my #ented interest & engaged educators of all kinds! Alongside enterprise educators everywhere, I thank you for enabling our vital profession & changing education! His legacy will live on in the whole #ented community and futures of enterprise students.” Gareth Trainer

For those with a European perspective, the launch of the EU Joint Research Centre’s EntreComp Framework was a major validation of Entrepreneurial Education, so the words of Tony Gribben, one of the champions who help to bring EntreComp to life, have real relevance.

“So sad to hear this news. Allan Gibb was a giant in the field. And the real #EntreComp pioneer.” Anthony Gribben

As a final indicator of Allan’s visionary abilities, the former United Nations Chief of Entrepreneurship, Fiorina Mugione, had this to say:

“We truly will miss him I cherished the time spent discussing and exchanging ideas on the future we want.” Fiorina Mugione

Tom Williamson, who also studied on the International Entrepreneurship Educator’s Programme leaves us with a very human story, and sums up Allan and the way he worked. First Tom tells us of Allan’s generosity with his time and support, then lets us into a little private insight, which typified Allan’s humility and modesty, the things that made him so approachable and so supportive of other researchers’ work:

“I must confess having a good giggle this morning as I recall a dinner with Allan back in 2010 – I would like to share a rare unseen contribution Allan made to the sector. After he had coloured in a picture of a chef at dinner with crayons for me, I mentioned his OBE, to which he replied, “oh you mean ‘Other Buggers Efforts’”.

Allan Gibb was a giant on whose shoulders many have built their research and expertise. He will be sadly missed, but as evidenced here – not forgotten.

Andy Penaluna and Dinah Bennett



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