Mark Allen (OK staff 1989-2021) died August 27, 2021
Mark joined the English department in 1989, and five decades of OKs can testify to how much he fired them with a love of literature and of learning. Mark was an enormously nurturing teacher, who cared deeply about his students, and could find a glimmer of gold in even the muddiest adolescent brook. He had the knack of making English seem easy and fun, and encouraging his students to believe in themselves as much as he did. He was the English department’s best recruiting sergeant for the subject at sixth form. He could persuade students that Chaucer was actually both simple and funny; and help them see the modern relevance of Shakespeare’s history plays. He enjoyed using classics such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Heart of Darkness to encourage teenagers to grapple with contemporary issues of gender, class and race; and he relished finding new texts, from The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Persepolis, that would open windows onto the modern world.
A long-standing member of the senior management, Mark managed to marry together integrity and pragmatism, guided by a strong belief in the values at the heart of teaching. Initially a head of teaching and learning, he knew never to patronise his colleagues. His long experience as head of university applications meant that he had all the answers at his fingertips; and as the IB co-ordinator he was a charismatic proselytiser for the educational and personal value of the diploma. The healthy uptake year on year is a testament to how infectious his belief in the IB’s philosophy was. Mark’s contribution to life at King’s was very broad indeed. He ran the school’s football for a number of years and was a very keen and active participant in school trips, having become an honorary member of the history department in recent years through his enthusiasm for striding around Berlin and reflecting upon Great War battlefields.
With colleagues and students alike, he was unfailingly kind, positive and generous with his time – even in the busiest moments of the autumn term, as the high waters of UCAS applications lapped around him, he could always find time to give guidance and support. Countless colleagues and pupils have benefitted from his measured approach, soundness of judgement and wisdom. He was at his most gregarious on the staff common room’s end of term pub crawl, which he would always organise and then, often clad in his Tottenham strip, would lead everyone on a convivial tour of the alehouses of Richmond or Putney.
Fundamentally, the best tribute to Mark is the simplest: he was a decent and thoroughly nice man, who was universally respected and valued by all, and someone about whom no one genuinely had a bad word to say. Mark’s sense of humour was infectious and his distinctive laughter would lift even the darkest of clouds. His loss to King’s is a very deep one, and he will be much missed by the senior management, the common room, and generations of King’s students.