UCL Anthropology


Obituary for Thomas Quick  (BSc Anthropology, 2006-2008)

13 February 2017

Thomas Quick

It is with great sorrow, that we post sad news about Thomas Quick, one of our outstanding former BSc Anthropology students, who has unexpectedly died of cancer - at the onset of a promising career and the young age of 29. His grief-stricken family kindly shared some memories about Thomas, from which we quote below. Myself and other colleagues at UCL who got to know Thomas as academics and administrators treasure the privilege and pleasure this has been. Our thoughts are with the loved ones he leaves behind. His fiancée Sarah and his family hope to acquire a piece of UK woodland that can be maintained in his memory, with an emphasis on careful stewardship to encourage biodiversity.

Prof Volker Sommer

Thomas Quick (1st August 1987 - 7th January 2017)

Thomas arrived at UCL to read Anthropology after attending the European School in Culham and his sixth form at Magdalen College School, Oxford. After A Levels, he took a gap in South America. Thomas loved the breadth and diversity of anthropology taught at UCL and thrived on the challenges the subject threw up; so much so that he picked up prizes for the first and final years and was entered on the Dean's List. Having graduated, he took up a Master's in Environmental Technology at Imperial College, where he excelled again by sharing the AECOM prize for overall performance on the programme and the ERM prize for an outstanding MSc thesis.

Thomas began his working life on consultancy projects in the environmental department at what was then URS (now AECOM). The one he was proudest of was a co-authored report for DEFRA on woodland management and creation in the UK. He left URS to join the civil service as a trainee climate change adviser for DFID. Thomas was one of the youngest of his cohort, but still highly regarded by his colleagues. After a year in the UK he was posted to South Africa where he worked on projects seeking to improve water management and to ease tensions over water resources. Based in Pretoria, he and his fiancée Sarah travelled widely during their time there, making the most of every moment to hike, bike and run amongst some of what Thomas regarded as the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the world. Two years on, he was made a fully-fledged government climate and environment adviser and posted to Botswana where worked on transboundary water management in the region.

It was here, after a short, but memorable break with Sarah and a friend up near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia in October 2016, that Thomas became very unwell. He returned to Pretoria for further tests and to both his family's and the doctors' distress, learnt that he had stage 4 cancer of the gallbladder. He flew back to the UK where he was under the care of the Churchill hospital in Oxford, including five weeks in the oncology ward. Just after Christmas Thomas learnt that the cancer had not responded to the chemotherapy. He returned home, aiming to spend as much time as possible with Sarah and his close family. Thomas died on 7th January 2017, aged twenty-nine, having faced the disease with immense courage and fortitude, albeit tinged with regret at what was not to be.

The Permanent Secretary of DFID, Sir Mark Lowcock, wrote that Thomas had been destined for a "glitteringly successful and impactful career." He leaves behind his fiancée, Sarah, parents Peter and Alison, sisters Ros and Vivien and their partners and his grandmother Ursula. The family now aims to purchase and maintain a woodland in his name that will enrich the environment and be a place that everyone can enjoy.