After over thirty years working in the co-operative sector, Mervyn Wilson, the chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College, is retiring.
Mr Wilson, who has worked in the field of co-operative education, co-operative identity and governance with co-operatives from all over the world, will retire in April next year.
While at the College, he has led the development of co-operative trust schools. Today there are over 700 co-operatives schools in the UK, which offer an alternative model of education. These are part of the Schools Co-operative Society, a network of schools and a co-operative on its own.
Mr Wilson has also contributed to securing the co-operative movement’s heritage by playing a key role in the development the National Co-operative Archive in 2000 and the Co-operative Heritage Trust in 2007.
Commenting on his decision to retire, he said: “The establishment of a new governance structure and the appointment of the interim trustees is in my view the ideal time to step down.
“While the College faces many challenges it has a strong team and a strong reputation in each of our core areas on which to build, with positive developments coming through in all areas. With a General Election in May further change is inevitable, so a good time for new ideas, new thinking, and for me new roads to discover!”
The interim trustees of the charitable incorporated organisation, who will also be responsible for the College when the governance new process is in place, will appoint Mr Wilson’s successor.
Stephen Yeo, chair of the Co-operative Heritage Trust, said: “I have worked closely with Mervyn since the 1980s: on a series of history workshops on the co-operative movement, using history to revive interest in our values and principles during times when this was much needed; as a colleague in the group of adult education colleges which included Ruskin and the Co-operative College when we were trying to reinvigorate our trades union and co-op roots; as chair of the College board, which appointed Mervyn as principal and made the brave move back to Manchester; and most recently as chair of the Co-operative Heritage Trust responsible for the magnificent modernisation of the Pioneers Museum and National Co-operative Archive.
“Throughout all this, and now with the work which has led to the seriously-significant Schools Co-operative Society, Mervyn has been determined, committed, reliable, politically astute, and, in old-fashioned language whether everyone likes it or not, a great comrade. I have always enjoyed working with him, he is great at making ideas practical. There will be time to pay proper tributes, but when he gets on his bike next Easter, he will leave a big gap as well as a big legacy.”
Nick Matthews, chair of Co-operatives UK and trustee of the Co-operative College, added: “He had the difficult task of managing the Co-operative College through an incredible period of change and contraction in the underlying retail movement. Today, thanks to his efforts, we still have a Co-op College. His critics would argue that it is not as good as it could be. On the other hand, given the changes in the co-operative business environment, the fact it is still standing is a minor miracle.
“In the last couple of years we have worked very closely together on the process of re-forming the College as a new institution – fit for the next period in our history. During this time I have valued his insights and support.
“I very much hope that, thanks to the foundations we have laid together, the new Co-op College will go on to fulfil the need for effective co-operative education in our movement for many years to come. During that time of closer working I have greatly enjoyed his company and have heard a great deal of the rebirth in his love of cycling. I for one hope he rides off towards a long and happy retirement.”