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MidKent College principal Sue McLeod, 53, dies one month after brain tumour diagnosis

By Chris Hunter

Sue McLeod will be remembered as an inspirational champion of education who transformed thousands of lives.

The principal of MidKent College died at Medway Hospital on Wednesday, just a month after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, prompting an outpouring of grief and tributes from those that new her.

Sue McLeod, principal of MidKent College
Sue McLeod, principal of MidKent College

Councillors broke from official business to record their sadness during a Medway Council meeting at the St George's Centre, the day after Ms McLeod's death.

"It's been an awful day and an awful month since her diagnosis," said Cllr Teresa Murray, a friend and colleague of Ms McLeod's for 25 years. "She faced having a brain tumour with tremendous courage and fortitude and we were all inspired by that.

"She was a very passionate campaigner for young people, in particular young people in care. Most recently she had been lobbying over funding cuts for 18 year olds. Everyone will miss her."

Cllr Teresa Murray
Cllr Teresa Murray

She said she would pass on the good wishes of the council to Ms McLeod's husband Alan and her daughter.

"She would have been very proud to hear what everybody has said," added Cllr Murray.

Cllr Jane Chitty said she would be sadly missed, adding: "My heart goes out to her family," while Cllr Mike O'Brien said: "It happened so quickly and it really is a sad, sad loss. She was a really lovely lady."

Cllr Les Wicks also paid tribute, and Cllr Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said: "her door was always open for Medway, for the whole of education and her students. She was an inspirational champion of education and this is a great loss."

A separate statement issued on Thursday by the MP said: “It was a real privilege to work with Sue who was so passionate about education and ensuring her students got the right support and resources so they could achieve their true potential in life.

“I recall working with her to get the Further Education Minister, Matthew Hancock MP, to visit the College and to meet with students who were going to be affected by proposed funding changes, as she felt it was vital for the Minister to listen and meet her students.

“She was a great educational leader who will be missed by everyone who knew her.”

Sue McLeod was appointed as principal of the College last September
Sue McLeod was appointed as principal of the College last September

Ms McLeod, from Chatham, became the first female principal of MidKent College when she accepted the post last September.

Former president of the Students' Union, Matt Stanley, said that Ms McLeod was still attending meetings as recently as last week despite being on leave.

He said: "It is really shocking and devastating news. She was an incredibly caring and supportive woman who took an interest in every stage of students' development.

"Sue helped transform thousands of lives and will be impossible to replace. You couldn't meet her without thinking that she instantly cared about you."

MidKent College student and star of The Voice Joseph Apostol described the news as 'devastating.' He added: "I'm sending my condolences to Ms Mcleod's family, she was a very kind and upbeat person. She will truly be missed."

Steve Corbishley, West Division Commander for Kent Police, tweeted: "She was an excellent leader who will be missed by many."

Scottish born mum-of-one Ms McLeod graduated with a degrees in business and travel and tourism from Bournemouth University, formerly Dorset Institute of Higher Education.

College chief executive Stephen Grix said: “Sue was an exceptional leader who inspired students and staff alike.

"Her energy, enthusiasm and ability to motivate others will be sorely missed. We have lost a very dear friend and a great principal.”

A former travel and tourism lecturer, Ms McLeod worked in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.

She joined the college in 1993, climbing the ranks to become the first female principal in its 100-year history.

Last February she visited Buckingham Palace to accept the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education from the Queen on behalf of the college.

Ms McLeod had been undergoing treatment at King's College Hospital in London and had not returned to work after being diagnosed, with Vice principal Simon Cook appointed acting principal by the College's governing authority in her absence.

A college spokesman said the college was in shock and it was unlikely that a decision would be made on a permanent appointment before students return on Monday, September 8, until that point Mr Cook will remain as acting principal for six months.

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