Video by: Olivia Centeno, UWC Mostar, Class of 2024 from Spain
We have lost a friend, a mentor and a founder. We have lost David.
"A turquoise A4 paper that David presented in his office in Italy in late 2000 was titled “United World College of Eastern Europe in Mostar – First thoughts. I still have the document.
I was visiting my old school, Adriatic college, five years since graduating to talk to students about my research work in Bosnia and Herzegovina (David always welcomed his students back). During the lunch in the beautiful Porto (David was a great host) I challenged David about his speech in a Prague UWC meeting some weeks earlier where he had mentioned UWC should go “where it is needed and cannot be afforded” and mentioned the need to develop UWC role in the new and profoundly challenging context of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I asked David what he had in mind as he never suggested anything without having already a plan. He admitted no plan as yet but we started discussing. David invited me to his office two hours later. Meanwhile he had written the turquoise memo signed “D.B.S. 12th November 2000”.
David described our meeting in Duino later: “From this reciprocal provocation emerged six years later the United World College in Mostar.”
This collection of memories – the Prague event, my visit soon after to Duino, the lunch and the “provoked” turquoise paper – are among the dearest memories I have. While I had been working with David – or Mr. Sutcliffe as we always referred to him with respect – as a student in Duino 1993-95, this chain of events five years later led him to become my mentor, a colleague and a very special friend.
Over the last 18 years – most intensively 2001-2006 – we worked together a lot and often on daily basis in Helsinki-London-Sussex-Sauris-Sarajevo also spending quite some time together in Bosnia and Herzegovina. David brought his important friend Antonin B. Besse to the team from the start and we were often referred to as “three musketeers” (I also had a chance to follow two passionate and intelligent men debating – to the extent of even having a period of no-contact at some point). In 2016 I followed David as the chair of the board of Education in Action, the foundation in charge of UWC in Mostar.
As a first hand witness I want to stress: without David’s passion, commitment, leadership, personal charisma and simply hard work UWC Mostar would never have been conceptualized as a project in 2001, opened in 2006 and kept alive through the financial crisis.
We both felt we did something very special together and we also knew that our work for five years on personal volunteer basis was critical as was David’s idea to seek money for me to move to Bosnia with my family in 2005 for 1,5 years to give our project a serious try. As critical was the continues persistence of David through the most difficult years with the key people on the ground – Jasminka Bratic, Valentina Mindoljevic, Lamija Tanovic, Mirna Jancic, Velema Roksa – just to mention a few. The staff members were incredible too.
Memories are many. Some serious, some funny, many very important, many very personal. I will try to collect them in due course. Two things I want to say here. Fist, David always remembered to underline the contribution of my husband and family just as he would always mention his wife’s Elisabeth’s role in everything. They did things together. Second, David respected people for what they were. He met my non-English speaking countryside Father, Grandmother and poor Sarajevan landlady in her small flat and left strong impression on all of them. People were people to him.
David wrote to me in August 2019 “please do not worry too much about me”. During these months I have said to my parents and husband that my emotional reaction tells it all. I loved David deeply. The same way I now miss him. I notice, however, that the enormous sadness transforms gradually into immeasurable gratitude for having been able to get to know him and to work with him. I believe his influence will guide the actions and life choices of mine and incredibly many people also during the years to come.
Be sure David that we will do our best to look after your legacy and to continue to challenge ourselves just as you always did."
Dr. Pilvi Torsti, Chair of Foundation Education in Action, UWCAD 1993-95 & co-founder of UWC Mostar
David B. Sutcliffe's family has sent the following message to the UWC community: "We have been greatly moved and are immensely grateful for all the wonderful messages, memories and thanks to David, which have comforted and supported us at this sad time. David’s funeral will take place at All Saints’ Church, 122-122A High Street, Lindfield, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 2HS on Friday, 29th November at 11.30 am. Family and friends are welcome. There will be a reception afterwards at The Tiger (church hall) next door. Family flowers only. According to David’s wishes, any donations should please go to the UWC Mostar Endowment Fund for student scholarships. It is thought that there will also be a memorial event for David held in the New Year. With love from Elisabeth, Michael, Veronica and families.’