Obituary for Pete Sims
Our friend and former colleague Pete passed away on the 1st of July 2021. He joined Kaospilot in January 2010 and he left in January 2019. Throughout his time at the school he guided and supported hundreds of students, helmed the development of a new curriculum, brought in a number of new lectures and topics, impacted the strategic direction of the school, and was a much beloved teammate and member of our community.
As far as our records are accurate, we first came into contact with Pete when he was a master student at the Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability Programme at Blekinge Institute of Technology. It was something of visiting Kaospilot to enhance knowledge about sustainability and entrepreneurship. Kaospilot was at the time working with ways to incorporate entrepreneurship and sustainability at a strategic level into the school’s curriculum. Later he was invited to fly over to give a lecture to Team 12 as they were heading for Vancouver for their outpost (note. Outpost is a particular element of the education where the whole time go to a creative hotspot to learn, create, and contribute). Already here, he displayed his abilities as a teacher.
He applied for a position a year or so later, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Pete was the first Canadian to join the staff and the first team leader to join as a non-EU citizen. Pete was young. The first team he was responsible for (Team 14) had members both older and in certain areas far more experienced than he was. But Pete took on the challenge with humbleness and integrity. In fact, already here he displayed a hallmark quality of his; He was with the students.
Naturally he was their leader, responsible, but he exercised that leadership by standing with them, not in front, behind, above, or below. He stood with them. Always.
It is fair to say that with Pete the school actually obtained real knowledge about key topics, such as sustainability, and he brought a sharpness of thought towards difficult conversations and problems. When reflecting over what made Pete such a great team leader, several qualities come to mind. Pete was knowledgeable, but he never let that stand in the way for meeting the students where they were. In a similar fashion, he was a colleague loyal to the cause, fighting for what he believed in and supportive far beyond what was demanded.
He was genuinely curious, in a wide range of topics. I remember conversations stretching from skateboarding to Rawls moral philosophy, from design as strategy to foods. He was good on stage, easily moving from a Vanilla Ice improvisation around a bonfire, to representing the school in front a room of academics in Spanish, and leading the proceedings at our 20thanniversary. He had a light in him, witty and serious, eloquent, and relaxed. Easy to like. Easy to be around.
Pete liked outposts. He liked the challenge and adventure of taking a team to new locations, build relationships and make projects happen. Perhaps it was something with the unchartered territory, perhaps something about creating the new, perhaps something about sense of togetherness. My strongest memory is Bogota. Bogota and Pete went well together. He easily adapted, gained friendships, and led the teams through quite some steep learning curves. I remember our strolls in the morning from his house to the schools’ facilities. Always the same routines, chewing gumsfrom one shopper outside the house, water from another, a coffee from another street vendorfurther down the hill, buying fruit for breakfast from one woman beside the road and a new coffee at the home base. When I asked why this routine after a few days, he said something in the line of “support the locals, spread the wealth and build community”.
My last journey with him was to Seattle. He asked if wanted to join. I think there was more than one purpose at play; Spending time together and manifesting some of the contacts he had brought into the school. Seen in retrospect, that trip did resemble some of my earliest memories of him: The excellent dinner company, long walks, the book buyer, the teacher, the student, the explorer, the good company. Almost ten years later, he was very much the same young man who came to us. Same, but of course different. Older, wiser, experienced, more pronounced and nuanced, but as always, good company.
I remember visiting him at the home where he was staying after his illness required special attention. One of the first things he said to me was “so what did you expect” before asking a ton of questions about Kaospilot. Still interested, still curious and still good company.
There is now a forest planted on Samsø in his name. A fitting tribute to what he stood for and believed in, but also a testimony to what he meant to others.
Pete leaves behind his parents, siblings with families and many, many friends. The memory of Pete will always live on at Kaospilot, and the impact of his contributions are an integrated part of the DNA of the school.
Christer and the rest of the Kaospilot family