Paul Auton, who has died at the age of 80 (or 20, as a Leap Year baby) was a prime mover and shaker in Cambridge Consultants and the Cambridge Network for many years. He contributed much to the work and fellowship of the Rotary Club during his 36 years as a member, despite increasing physical and visual disabilities. He was club President in 2004-5 and was made a Paul Harris Fellow in 2012 in recognition of his service and fundraising efforts.
From his entry on the Rotary Club members register:
Paul read engineering at Imperial College, obtaining a PhD, and represented the university at cross-country running. He joined Marconi in 1962, before moving to Cambridge in 1969. He was MD of Cambridge Consultants Ltd for 15 years. Paul has been a director of many local companies, including Addenbrooke's NHS Trust, and the Cambridge Network, President of a national trade association and a member of the steering group of the Greater Cambridge Partnership. He is a recent governor of Hills Road Sixth Form College.
A tribute from Graeme Minto:
I proposed Paul as a Rotarian in 1984. He served as President in 2004/5 and was awarded a PHF in 2012. Paul was Speaker Finder for 7 years. He also served on many committees, especially membership, where his business experience was most valuable. Many Mock Interview participants benefitted from his advice.
Mary and I were pleased to host his President’s party in our garden on one of the hottest days of the year.
I first knew Paul when I joined Cambridge Consultants (CCL) in 1971 where he was director of physics and doing fascinating research for the Ministry of Defence.
From those days are two of his colleagues and lifelong friends Rob Hook and Stephen Temple, who will be able to contribute much more.
When I left CCL to start a spin-off business, he was very supportive. He went on for more than 20 years to be Managing Director of CCL and then its Chairman. Throughout this time he had to travel the world, which he did without complaint – which was all the more remarkable considering his disability from Polio which he contracted at University and ended his progress as a fine cricketer.
Whilst at CCL and later, he contributed much to Cambridge. He was one of four leading lights (with Alec Broers, Hermann Hauser and Nigel Brown) who founded the Cambridge Network.
He was for many years on the board of Prelude Venture Capital. He also served as a governor of Addenbrooke’s. As his eyesight deteriorated (a hereditary condition) he worked with CamSight and was a very active President/Chair of Trustees.
His wit and shrewd grasp of essentials served him well, and I remember many meetings where his polite but very firm leadership was greatly appreciated.
Mary and I have enjoyed the wonderful friendship of Paul and Colette in so many ways for nearly 50 years. He will be greatly missed by us all.
From John Brady:
Paul's contribution to our Club is well remembered and his achievement with his involvement and leadership of Cambridge Consultants is better known by other Members who had direct contact with him. My appreciation is probably most vivid of the way he led Camsight, a very lively local Charity which grew out of the Blantyre home for the Blind, which after closure then extended its services over the whole County under Keith Peak (who was totally blind), succeeded as President by Paul a good few years ago. New premises had been acquired in Scotland Road and Francis and Tony Nix advised on conversion and extension.
I was involved both as a recipient of help having had vision problems for 40 years and as a fund-raising friend arranging annual grants from other charitable bodies. Francis and I attended the AGMs under Paul's Chairmanship which is where we learnt how expertly Paul had his finger on the pulse/button and how proficiently he was able to lead and advise on the running of what had become a wonderful service to so many people's vision problems of varying degree. You can imagine how Paul's sense of humour and his warmth of his staff and volunteers made for lighthearted but very efficient meetings...
His amiability with such severe disabilities so devotedly aided by Colette are inspirational for all who knew them
From Colin Greenhalgh
It has been a great pleasure to know Paul and Colette for so many years. As a Governor at Hills Road Sixth Form College and a Board Member at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Paul's wisdom, good sense and support were valued and greatly appreciated by everyone. Both institutions were fortunate to enjoy the active involvement of a leading member of the Cambridge business community who was Managing Director of Cambridge Consultants. I also enjoyed sitting near to Paul at meetings of the Rotary Club when his good humour, perceptive observations, and love of cricket were always an important part our conversations. Colette was a great support for Paul, often attending evening meetings of the Rotary Club and other social events.
Paul's concern for the disadvantaged, not least in his leading contribution to CamSight, was another aspect of a life well lived and to the full, in spite of his disabilities, which he always carried with cheerfulness and dignity.
Paul set the highest standards. He was a fine human being and a wonderful role model of integrity and humanity. He will be greatly missed.
From Edward Thackray
Edward and Rosemary Thackray pay tribute to the remarkable courage of both Paul and Colette over so many years. He was a loyal member of our Rotary Club and had sound advice to give when it was needed. During his President's year he very gamely joined our wine trip to Provence. Colette was a great help with any communications that were needed in French!
From Robin Davies
What delightful company and marvellous, gentle sense of humour!
I will never forget his remarkable ability to chair meetings without a single piece of paper in front of him and miss nothing. And he carried his considerable achievements so lightly. A lovely, talented friend.
From Morris Chudleigh
I joined Cambridge Consultants in 1980 when Paul was Deputy MD. He became MD three years later and Chairman a number of years after that. Throughout his time in the company he made a point of ‘managing by walking about’, in a company of from 200 to 350 people he knew everyone, including the projects they were working on. He was universally respected by the staff, but it was more than respect – people liked Paul and felt they could be honest with him about problems. He always took an interest and would try to help when he could. He encouraged innovation and allowed teams to take risks which is why the company had such a high reputation for solving the ‘difficult problems’.
Like many companies, we had long service awards, the first of those being after 10 years. These were extremely well attended and enjoyed by all, except the person receiving the award. Paul always presented the award, did thorough research and dug out the ‘dirt’ on people beforehand. He told me many years later that he spent a long time preparing. He was a superb public speaker with a unique delivery style and did a very selective career review with much embellishment of the facts to the amusement of those attending.
Paul’s eyesight got gradually worse over many years but when I first joined there was a company cricket team that played occasional evenings at Elsworth. Paul often acted as umpire and we were always happy he was in that role as few of us were given out lbw!
Paul took Cambridge Consultants through a period of expansion and a traumatic time when our parent company (in the US) went bust. Throughout his time, he encouraged those who wanted to leave and start their own company and generally we took a small shareholding in those companies. If you look at a family tree of the high technology companies in and around Cambridge from the late 1960’s onwards, you will see that very many can be traced back to Cambridge Consultants, including of course, Domino Printing Sciences, that Graeme Minto left Cambridge Consultants to found in the late 1970s
Tuesdays were always different: Paul was never around at lunchtime. I remember someone telling me he was going to ‘Rotary’, of which I knew nothing at the time. His driver, Roy, picked him up and delivered him back a couple of hours later. What happened in between was a mystery to almost all of us – some secret society we thought.
Since joining Rotary around 10 years ago (amazed that he did not black-ball me), I got to know Paul and Colette better and grew to think of them as friends as we coincided at a number of things, including CamSight events and the series of classical concerts at the Corn Exchange each year, which he attended until the virus stopped them earlier this year. It was always a pleasure to talk to him. He will be sorely missed.
From Jeremy Waller
I have very fond memories of chatting with Paul at Rotary, discussing world events, and how we could give back to the broader community living in Cambridge. Sheila and I used to live and work in Paris, so we had a link with Colette too.
Paul was always very kind to me, as we had many things in common, what my engineering background with Babcocks and UTC (Otis and Carrier), and my experiences while living in Beirut during the civil war. Also my predecessor helped start Wintercomfort, so we had link through the charities we support.
Click here to read a tribute to Paul by Claire Ruskin of Cambridge Consultants by permission of the Cambridge Independent where it was published on 15 July 2020
Cambridge Consultants are compiling a book of tributes and they welcome contributions from friends and colleagues, which may be sent to email@example.com
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