David Archer

Director of Leadership Consultancy Socia. First resident of Wearmouth Hall. Patron of the Mary and Brian Archer Opportunity Award.

David Archer spent the first part of his childhood living in the penthouse of Wearmouth Hall. His father, Brian Archer, was the first Warden of Wearmouth Hall when it opened in 1963 and went on to become Head of the Civil Engineering Department.  David’s mother, Mary Archer, taught in the Pharmacy Department before having a family. Growing up with students and immersed in academia, David went on to study engineering at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and lecture at the University of Hertfordshire before becoming director of leadership consultancy company, Socia.

As the University has been an important part of their lives, David recently launched the Mary and Brian Archer Opportunity Award in honour of his parents to give opportunities and financial support to students looking to enhance their skills, knowledge and experience.

Listen to David’s story:

Read the transcript from David’s interview:

Memories of growing up in Wearmouth Hall

“My dad was the first warden of Wearmouth Hall from when it opened in 1963, and he and my mam were both lecturers at the College, so he lectured in civil engineering, my mother lectured in pharmacy. I think, for a while, because I found a couple of his speeches and things, he was really interested in why there should be a residential hall and why that would add more to the student experience of students living together and eating together and things. He did a number of speeches sort of advocating for that. When it opened, he got the job as being the first warden and I was only two going on three when we moved in. So, these are pretty sparse memories, but I do have very clear memories that we were living on the ninth floor, I think the tallest building in Sunderland at the time, certainly the only one with a penthouse at the top- I mean, not that it was.

So, my main memory at the start, moving in, was the lifts because I’d never seen a lift before. And this was kind of so exciting that you could go up and down and you know, we’d come from a little terraced bungalow in Roker, so it was so completely different to be up in the sky. And so that was sort of my first memories of it and I used to love playing up there because it was just my playground. But then there was one terrible day when I was playing football and I kicked the football over the edge of the balcony, and as you can imagine, I was banned from ever playing on it again. And then the whole sort of thing about being in a hall with lots of students.

So that is three to eight years old or so, I just had loads of playmates, basically the whole of the students. So, I have very clear memories of asking my mam and dad if I could go and visit the students, visit my friends on my little three wheel and scooter and I suppose I was allowed to go down in the lift on my own, I don’t know. But I’d go down to the floor and scoot along the floor and visit my friends. And I remember it was very international. So, I distinctly remember Norwegian students and I’ve still got somewhere, some little kind of toys of trolls and little sort of Norse long boats that they gave me. And I remember at Christmas it was dead exciting because they decorated one of the corridors, maybe more than one of the corridors, like a kind of Santa’s grotto with sort of cotton wool snow and things like that”.

And so I remember kind of going to do all of that. So, I’ve clear memories of that, that it was really a very friendly place. It was just like a big extended family for me with, you know, hundreds of elder brothers who I could kind of play with. So that sense of family and also that sense of really being at the centre of something, at the top of Wearmouth Hall, you felt you were at the centre of a college, later a polytechnic and then later a university and the place of that in the town, it felt like it was really in the centre of the town, which I thought felt very important. It is and still does feel like home and that, you know, and looking back at all the things from the archive it does feel I can’t remember where I lived before that. So it sort of feels like my first home”.

On his career

“I taught at Hatfield Polytechnic for six or seven years and kind of completely loved that and in some way, I found my ideal job too young because I couldn’t go and do that for the rest of my life. I then went into consultancy with a colleague, wrote a couple of books on collaboration and leadership about how to get public and private and the third sector to work together and build a consultancy business on the back of that, and some of which has involved working with universities. And so, education has always kind of been a part of that. And actually, now in my sixties and approaching retirement, I’ve gone back to be a student again and in lockdown and went to the Open University course, just thinking, you know, can’t travel but want to get out of the house kind of thing. And I did an OU art history course which was just so brilliant, and I just got so much from it”.

On the city of Sunderland

“We’ve still got some family in Roker, so I like to go back there. And my mam, who spent the last four years of her life in a most wonderful care home on the front, at Roker, Princess House, which was just fantastic. And actually, one of the nicest- she had dementia but- one of the nicest things was it was on a road that she said she could remember pushing me in my pram. And so it was, you know, that whole seafront at Fulwell is such an important bit of my memories and her memories. It’s just such a beautiful part of the world”.

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