Paul Wheeler, 1966-2008

April 24, 2008

Colleagues have paid tribute to an "amazing" academic found dead earlier this month.

Paul Wheeler, a senior lecturer in learning disability nursing at the University of Glamorgan, had recently been treated for depression.

Dr Wheeler "excelled at all he attempted", said Donna Mead, dean of the faculty of health, sport and science.

He started out his working life in plumbing before taking a law degree, according to his colleague Robert Jenkins, divisional head of learning disability at the university. But he "found his calling" and took a degree in learning disability nursing at Glamorgan, graduating in 2000. After several years working with people with learning disabilities in residential homes and taking an MPhil in sociolegal studies at Cardiff University, he returned to the university as a senior lecturer in 2003. While lecturing, he produced his PhD on sexuality and people with learning disabilities at the Tizard Centre at Kent University. He won a postdoctoral fellowship in 2005 for a two-year project on the management of people with learning disabilities who commit offences.

He combined his interests in the law and learning disabilities and was part of a delegation invited to Whitehall to discuss new legislation on mental capacity, said Mr Jenkins. Professor Mead said his legal training helped to make him a "formidable advocate" and all his colleagues spoke of his determination to ensure that the views of people with learning disabilities were heard.

In his spare time he loved the outdoors and enjoyed walking, diving and sailing. He raised over £1000 for cancer charities walking around the Welsh coast and was a volunteer walk leader for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

"People will remember him as a person who was very friendly and helpful," said Mr Jenkins. "He was a really amazing guy. He was an excellent teacher. He could make difficult concepts quite simple for students to understand and he was very fondly thought of by them." He added that he believed that Dr Wheeler's latest research, on the extent to which people with learning disabilities are involved in decisions about their care, would lead to improvements in the way they are treated.

Ruth Northway, professor of learning disability nursing, said: "He had an incredible brain. He was very thorough and was very committed to improving things for people with learning disabilities."

Passionate about the environment, he was buried in a wicker coffin at a humanist funeral.

He is survived by his partner Julian Boyce, his mother, father and sister.

An inquest into his death has not yet concluded.

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