Tony Coxon (1939-2012)

Tony was a prominent character in the department during the 1990’s. He came to Essex in the late 1980’s as the first Director of the ESRC Longitudinal Study. His own research was concerned originally with class and latterly with the AIDS Crisis and the Sexual Behaviour of Gay Men.

His partner, Philip Hawkins, wrote this obituary for the Guardian  24th April, 2012.

My husband, Tony Coxon, who has died of a brain tumour aged 73, was emeritus professor of sociological research methods at the University of Wales. Following lectureships at Leeds and Edinburgh universities, Tony was appointed professor at the then University College Cardiff at only 35. He enjoyed a distinguished and diverse career, which included research into religion, occupations, social networks and male sexuality. He was the principal investigator of Project SIGMA, a major longitudinal study of gay men and HIV/Aids which informed government and World Health Organisation policies at the height of the epidemic.

An acknowledged international expert in multidimensional scaling (a technique for visualisation of relationships in a set of data) and the use of diaries, and the “method of sorting” for data collection, in 1989 Tony was appointed the first director of the ESRC Research Centre, now the Institute for Social and Economic Research, at the University of Essex, where he led the development of the highly influential British Household Panel Survey.

Tony was born in Sale, Cheshire, and educated at the King’s school, Canterbury, and Cheadle Hulme school, Stockport. He was still in his teens when he decided he had a vocation to the priesthood. Initially he trained at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, from where he was supported as an undergraduate at Leeds University studying sociology and philosophy. However he did not return to Mirfield and after graduation at Leeds continued his studies to complete his doctorate.

Although he left the church completely for a time, his deep commitment to Christian socialism remained with him for the rest of his life. It was reflected in his membership of the Third Order of Anglican Franciscans; his pacifism (he was a conscientious objector during national service); and his membership of CND, the Committee of 100 and the Independent Labour Party.

At Leeds, Tony married Morfydd Williams and they had three children. But he struggled with his sexuality and eventually came out as a gay man in 1978. Although they both worked hard to keep their marriage intact, it did not survive. In 2005, Tony and I registered our civil partnership on Islay, the first such in Argyll and Bute, and celebrated it the following year with a blessing and eucharist.

Predeceased by Morfydd and by his brother Tim, Tony is survived by me, his children Kirstie, Huw and Alasdair, and by his sister Máire.

See also: ESRC Obituary   ; ISER ;


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