My friend and colleague Roger Bowers, who has died aged 77, was influential in English language teaching (ELT) over five decades and a key figure at the British Council for many years.
Roger was born in south London, the son of George Bowers, an accountant, and his wife, Hilda (nee Wells). He attended the Royal grammar school in Guildford, then studied classics at Wadham College, Oxford.
On graduating in 1964, he joined the British Council, and was posted in 1965 to Ghana, where he lived with his first wife, Gwen (nee Pith), and where their children, Mark and Alison, were born. He later led projects in India and Egypt, and in 1985 became director of the British Council’s English language division.
Roger completed his PhD on classroom talk at the University of Reading in 1980, and subsequently combined the roles of academic and education manager. His research was the basis for a series of publications and editing roles, such as the ELT Docs series. He was seconded by the British Council to Birmingham University in 1965, where he was a tutor to international students, and was a visiting professor at Ain Shams University, Cairo, from 1980 to 1984.
At the end of the cold war in 1989, Roger was a key figure in the UK government’s response, setting up initiatives to develop English teaching in eastern and central Europe, where English was quickly replacing Russian as first foreign language in schools. In 1992, he became assistant director-general of the British Council, overseeing restructuring and expansion as the organisation became more commercial and enterprise oriented.
In 1998 he became CEO of the Trinity College London (TCL) Examinations Board on English language testing. He retired in 2006, and in 2007, after 10 years of work as a trustee, became chair of the Hornby Trust, an English language education charity. He helped to expand the charity, creating grants to language education projects in the global south.
Roger and Gwen divorced in 1989. In 2009 he married his long-term partner, Jenny Pugsley, who was also a colleague at the British Council. They were great hosts, welcoming many to their home in London, and in Macclesfield, when the British Council moved him to Manchester, or at the farmhouse they were restoring in France. Roger loved cooking, was a keen angler and, as a linguist, had an enduring curiosity about words.
Roger was made OBE in 1984 and CMG in 1997. He is survived by Jenny, by Mark and Alison, and by his four grandchildren, Ellie, Holly, Hazel and Pippa.
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