Obituary: Witty SOAS lecturer and academic Lawrence Saez

Professor Lawrence Saez's Inaugural lecture.Professor Paul Webley,Professor Lawrence Saez, Dr Tat Ya

Professor Lawrence Saez's Inaugural lecture.Professor Paul Webley,Professor Lawrence Saez, Dr Tat Yan Kong, Professor Gurharpal Singh. PIcture: Glenn Ratclfife/SOAS - Credit: Glenn Ratcliffe

Sardonic, sarcastic and funny are three of the words that have been used to describe the late-SOAS lecturer and King’s Cross local Prof Lawrence Saez, who died at the beginning of September.

Professor Lawrence Saez during his time in the army

Professor Lawrence Saez during his time in the army - Credit: Archant

Lawrence, who died after a three-year illness with bowel cancer, taught at the university in Bloomsbury as well as holding a post at Sciences Po in Paris. He specialised in the political economy of Asia.

It was in the French capital where he taught Liberal Democrat councillor for Belsize Luisa Porritt during her Master’s degree.

Like many students he taught, she kept in touch with him after the end of her course. She said he was the most inspirational person she had ever met.

“He told this story in his first class about how he met an Indian woman who he liked and he knew nothing about India,” she said.

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“He started learning about it and that led to an academic interest in the region. When a lecturer comes out with that in their first class, it breaks the ice.”

Lawrence was born in the rural outskirts of Madrid in 1965. After leaving school he joined the Spanish Army. Later, he went to America, where he met his future wife Joy and had a son, Jackson, in 2000.

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He became head of the politics and international studies department at SOAS in 2015.

Sadly, a year later he was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. But according to both Jackson and Luisa, it was something that he never let get in the way of normal life.

Jackson, 18, said: “He lived more fully when he was diagnosed because he realised he wasn’t here for long, and he travelled to a lot of places and did a lot of things, and made use of the time he had left.”

Luisa agreed. “He did all the things doctors said he shouldn’t – he drank, he lived well and he was happy. To have lived for so long after diagnosis was remarkable, and was possibly down to that.”

His son is now studying at UCL. Jackson said his dad was a friend to him and that he has particularly fond memories of the man teaching him to cook, as well as a trip to Iceland in 2014.

“He was very sarcastic and funny, quite sardonic in a way,” he said. “He loved trying to make light of things.”

Prof Lawrence Saez died on September 11, aged 55. He is survived by his ex-wife Joy and son Jackson. SOAS is planning a memorial in his honour.

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