It was with great sadness that Epilepsy Action learned of the death on 13 February 2011 of Alec Aspinall.
Alec joined British Epilepsy Association as an information officer for the North of England in October 1967, working from his own home in Keighley, West Yorkshire. In 1973 he became the Senior Regional Officer for the northern region and opened an Association regional office in Leeds. In 1979, Alec was promoted to the post of Director of Education for the whole Association and shortly afterwards he shared the chairmanship of the staff Management Team. In 1985, he was appointed as Chief Executive of British Epilepsy Association and under his executive leadership the charity relocated its head office from Crowthorne House in Berkshire to Anstey House in Leeds.
Alec was first and foremost an educator. He taught people about epilepsy in an accomplished style with wit, humour, enthusiasm and a deep knowledge of his subject. Over the years, he organised hundreds of education and training initiatives. In 1976 alone he organised and ran 96 educational events in the north of England attended by 5,615 people.
Alec’s work raised the level of understanding and awareness of everyone from schoolchildren to professors. One of his great successes was the instigation of the annual Burton Manor epilepsy conference. This drew people from all over the world as well as from this country for more than twenty years. Alec was an expert on virtually every aspect of the social condition of people with epilepsy. In 1985 he co-authored, with Professor Peter Jeavons, the Epilepsy Reference Book. Even after all this time the book remains as popular as ever.
Alec was part of the Association’s tradition of being active within the International Bureau for Epilepsy and he participated in numerous international meetings and symposia representing the views of people with epilepsy and British Epilepsy Association. In 1985, he was awarded the distinction of becoming an International Ambassador for Epilepsy in recognition of his international work for people with epilepsy.
Alec retired from the Association in January 1989 after nearly 22 years dedicated service. But his contribution to epilepsy did not stop there. He carried on for many years as a trustee of the Epilepsy Research Foundation and was a Vice President of that charity.
The late Dr Maurice Parsonage worked very closely with Alec for many years helping to establish the Association in the north of England. His words perhaps best sum up Alec when he said of him: -
“Success over the years has never changed him. He is the same kindly, modest, tolerant man that we have always known. His dedication to his work has become legendary, fortified by his great integrity, tolerance and warm heartedness.”
In 2006 Alec’s years of service to people with epilepsy were recognised by Epilepsy Action when it awarded him its highest honour, the Lord Hastings Award. Our thoughts now go to Alec’s wife Ivy and all his family. We are left with warm memories of a kind and gentle man.
Philip Lee, Chief Executive, Epilepsy Action
21 February 2011