Tributes paid to college champion, BBC legend and 'real gentleman' Alan, 85
- Credit: South Devon College
‘Inspirational’, a ‘real gentleman’ and a ‘wonderful man’ - just a few of the tributes paid to Alan Hart who has died at the age of 85.
He will be known locally for his links with South Devon College, but Mr Hart was also the BBC's former head of sport and its controller from 1981 until 1984 - during which time he commissioned the popular soap drama EastEnders.
He was editor of the showpiece Grandstand programme and was also editor of the coverage of the Beeb's Olympics and the Sports Review of the Year shows. He knew and brushed shoulders with some of the world’s sporting greats.
"Alan was a major figure in the BBC - a key pillar of BBC Sport in the 1960s and '70s, when he was such a distinguished editor of Grandstand in its heyday, among many other successes, before heading up first the sports department and then BBC One," said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.
South Devon College paid its own tributes. The college said: “The college and those within it, had the privilege of knowing Alan Hart over the last two decades.
“He was an inspiration to us all. As an enthusiastic and engaged governor, Alan was involved in helping the College relocate its whole campus from Torquay to Paignton during 2005 and 2006. Then, thanks to his work at the BBC he helped secure Dame Kelly Holmes for the formal opening in the summer of 2006.
“Not satisfied with that, Alan’s drive and dedication to our students then led to him to overseeing the creation in 2008 of the charity Friends of South Devon College. As a Trustee and Chair of Friends, Alan and his team of volunteers, alongside staff and students, helped raise much needed funds for students experiencing hardship and those most in need. The Friends continues to successfully raise funds to this day.
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“Alan was a real gentleman, everyone who knew him at the College was the better for it, his kindness, thoughtfulness, sense of humour, huge list of enviable contacts and his sheer determination to do all he could to ensure the best possible outcome for College students, was legendary.
“In 2014, the College took great delight in seeing Alan awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education by Plymouth University for his services as a governor at South Devon College. The University particularly recognising his innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity.
“His enthusiasm and engagement over the years never stopped and in April 2019 we were delighted when Alan agreed to formally open our Positive Intervention Hub at our main Paignton campus at Vantage Point. A newly expanded area, heavily supported by FoSDCS.
“This has had, and continues to have, a hugely positive impact for so many of our students and will be just one of the many positive legacies left by Alan.
“It is sad that we have all lost such a wonderful man, but here at South Devon College we can take some comfort in that fact that Alan Hart’s impact on countless young people will continue, through the incredible frameworks he helped create and develop during his time championing this College.
“The thoughts of everyone at the College who knew Alan are with his family.”
As chairman of the Friends charity Alan’s passion to support South Devon’s learners inspired high profile local business owners to join the charity and, using his contacts from his role as head of BBC Sport, he ran a series of highly successful fundraising sporting dinners, with guest speakers including Murray Walker, ensuring the charity was financially well positioned.
Current Friends chairman Jeremy Aspinall said: “Having stepped down as a trustee in 2016, Alan remained hugely supportive as the charity expanded its role to provide direct support for the College’s Positive Intervention Team and was always keen to understand the actions being taken by the Trustees to support South Devon’ s students.”
He leaves behind wife Celia and children David, Dominic and Gabrielle.
The family said: "“Dad's work at South Devon College was something he hugely enjoyed doing. His little black book of contacts was used to the full to involve some great sporting personalities in the project.
"His achievements at the BBC and at Eurosport were remarkable, but he was just as proud of the positive impact he was able to make in a county he loved... Devon.”