“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I think of her wherever I go”.

Laurence Thomas, Laurie as he was more affectionately known, never forgot his roots, whilst he moved around the country throughout his life, he always held a spot in his heart for his London home which had been bombed during the blitz. Our opening music pays tribute to one of Laurie’s fondest memories, of him, his parents and sister, on Sunday afternoons walking along the Thames, crossing Lambeth Bridge, singing the song, laughing together as they did the Lambeth Walk. Laurie continued to perform this song right up to his passing.

Always smiling, often singing, a brilliant researcher and authority on the psychology of human learning, Professor Laurie Thomas was loved and respected by so many. Whilst sadly we no longer have his physical presence, his legacy will live on for generations, his life work will continue for the betterment of humankind, promoting a way for all to achieve their potential just as he himself tried to do.

Early Life

Laurie’s parents, Cissie and Frederick Thomas proudly welcomed him into their family on 19th March 1927. He was their second child, born in Battersea, London, a younger brother for his sister Doreen. They were a happy close knit family, spending time together in and around the big city.

Laurie’s time at school would set him on the path to dedicate his life to help others learn. It would also form his personality and altruistic tendencies, he would go on to show great care and patience for his own students.

An intelligent young boy, he excelled at maths and most subjects. What he found a little difficult was languages. Even though he had a welsh speaking father, so was used to hearing a different tongue, being able to grasp the words and pronunciations didn’t come as easy as figures and calculations.

He was also a very energetic, happy and lively boy. His headmaster told him he had too much ‘joie de vivre’, a phrase which Laurie didn’t understand and couldn’t pronounce. What happened next may just be what set him on his future path. He was made to stand on a stool in front of his class and say the words aloud, when he couldn’t pronounce it his classmates laughed at him. He never, ever forgot that feeling, he would never let this happen to any of his pupils, learning should be enjoyable, students should be encouraged and helped, and he would see to it that they were.

As an adult Laurie travelled the world to continue his research and provide lectures and workshops on his original techniques designed to raise awareness of how people made sense of their world to act effectively upon it. He was a trailblazer, a leader in his field. Inevitably he had his detractors, yet he also had his supporters, other brilliant minds who saw the value in his research.

One such person became a very dear friend who would remain at his side to the end.


Together with Sheila, Laurie travelled the world providing key note addresses at conferences. Sheila recalls how on one occasion, after an arduous journey, a long flight and delay which gave them no time to rest prior to the conference, and with fatigue setting in, she told Laurie she couldn’t deliver the key note speech.

Caring and altruistic, Laurie reassured her, he let her rest and went on to deliver the speech for them both with warm acclaim.

Laurie and Sheila’s rich relationship spans over 30 years, not only delivering lectures and workshops, but jointly authoring books and working on their website.

Laurie, having been active and lively in his youth was no different throughout his life. As the years passed he took up Tai Chi and Yoga, even into his late 80s he was able to hold many yoga poses, including being able to stand on his head!

As age advanced Sheila encouraged Laurie to move from Oxford to Swansea where she would always be there for him. So he settled in Wales, the native land of his father and grandfather.

After a stroke and hospitalisation Sheila was advised that he needed 24-hour care. He moved to the Brynfield Manor Care home in Langland, where Sheila visited him every day.

Laurie would still be active, no one it seemed could contain him. As he saw Sheila approach he would be up on his feet, at the door pulling on it to let her in.

As dementia took hold he began to lose awareness of who and where he was, but he never forgot Sheila, holding her hand tightly during her visits. It was traumatic for her to witness the demise of a person so clever and bright entering a dark place. In his last year he could no longer walk but kept his spirit up with a smile and a thank you to anyone who helped him.

As well as their personal and academic conversations, Laurie shared many memories with Sheila, providing more insights into his long and fulfilled life.


He was a spontaneous spirit, never making plans, but living life day to day. His mission through his retirement was to finish his website on psychology of human learning. His ambition was to leave a legacy of his books and website representing his life’s work and the impact it had and will hopefully continue to have.

Laurie was very appreciative of Andrew, our last post graduate, who took on the responsibility of updating the website making it more generally available. Thank you Andrew for your patience and love.

In Andrew’s words, “In everything I am engaged, including, organisational development, political democracy and spirituality, I am deeply influenced by what I learnt from you both in my PhD years. Self-Organised Learning provides a lifeblood for organisations to grow”.

As mentioned Laurie loved singing, not just listening to others, but actually singing himself. Sheila recalls how Laurie would stare out of his window at the stars in the sky and sing a beautiful tune, no doubt remembered from his childhood.

Laurie, there is another bright star in the sky now, as we look skywards we will see your smile, remember your name and be grateful to have known you.

Your work here is done, be assured it will live on.