Rene Saran

Tributes to Dr Rene Saran

I was Rene’s M.PH/PhD student (PT) from late 1970s to late 1980s. In that time Gordon Cunningham, my husband, and Paul Branton, Rene’s  husband, and Rene Saran became close friends. 

Gordon described Rene as someone who demonstrated the virtue of integrity more than anyone  else he had known.

Your news of her death led me to re-open Rene’s book, ‘Rene’s Tree of Life’, and remind myself of many conversations with Rene & Paul, & how they had enriched  wherever they lived.

Kathryn Cunningham 

I first met Rene around 1995 when she contacted me after reading an article in The Guardian about Socrates in Prison that described a Dialogue Group I was running in a high-security prison. Thereafter we met half a dozen times through invitations from her to participate in Socratic Dialogue conferences in the UK and abroad. She was a very substantial human being, with a strong presence, a good mind and a kind heart. I always felt enriched by the conversations we had and privileged to know her as a professional colleague. I am delighted she reached her 100th birthday and presumably received her royal acknowledgement from Queen Elizabeth. 

Peter Garrett, AofPD

What a life! And what a very remarkable woman. I shall be forever grateful to Pat for having introduced me to her and Tamsyn – those were great, truly stimulating times. It is wonderful that she made it in such splendid form to her 100th birthday and that she had such good care through her last declining years.

Celia Hawkesworth, Academic, translator of Serbo-Croatian: see  ‘Hiatus’  by Nermina Kurspahić. Translated for SFCP,  published 1994

Rene was very important for me to meet in Socratic Dialogue. She always helped me and she was an important figure for me. I had a chance to stay with her, walk with her and talk to her. Her book that tells about her life touched me a lot.
I always appreciate her.

Nimet Kucuk, Teacher of Philosophy, Turkey

Rene’s major role in BELMAS was to chair the Research Committee for 12 years, and that included two research conferences.  So she had a key role in helping to promote research in the field over a substantial period of time.  She was also on BELMAS Council for a number of years. Rene was a friend and mentor to many as testified from the number and variety of folk who attended her birthday parties, including those from BELMAS who enjoyed her hospitality at Kings Gardens. 

Watch “Celebrating Rene Saran’s 100th Birthday | 15th June 2021” here.

BELMAS friends and colleagues

I remember Rene’s warm and encouraging approach. She was immensely supportive while I was chair of the BELMAS Research Committee. Rene was invariably very positive, and she also had a clear mind of her own and a strong sense of how things should be done. That was always immensely helpful when I was organising research conferences.

Chris James, Emeritus Professor, University of Bath

There is no author of ‘mine’ that I’d more readily pay tribute to than Rene.  In 2004 Trentham Books published Enquiring Minds: Socratic Dialogue in Education,  edited by Rene Saran and Barbara Neisser and it remained a jewel in our list. I have a copy still.

The unexpected bonus was the friendship that sprang up between Rene and me. 

We explored the treasures of the surroundings of venues at which Rene conducted fascinating dialogues – a church with a tapestry by a Jewish artist, several stately homes. We gathered blackberries, got stuck in mud, occasionally had to rush for the train home!  I remember sitting on the grass in Kew Gardens chatting happily. Rene spoke about her mother, and her eventful life, with the same constant positivity that surely came from growing up among so much kindness and care, from so many people. Rene’s cooking inspired me to become vegetarian, but what I most learned from her was to develop my own understanding of others. I have no doubt that Rene Saran changed countless people’s lives for the better. It was a privilege to know her, and great fun.

Dr Gillian Klein

Founder and publisher of Trentham Books

“How do you start to describe the meaning that someone like Rene has been in ones life?  Mentor, friend, encourager, helper and advocate seem to be a few words – but these fail to convey the remarkable person that Rene was.  As one of the previous Chairs of SFCP – encouraged to accept the role by Rene of course, I learnt so much from her that enabled me to develop as a teacher, researcher and at times leader.  It with gladness that I recall her joy for life and bravery when required.”

Mike Cook, SFCP Previous Chair, member of the SFCP Board and dialogue participant.

Rene will always be remembered for her philosophy, love of travel and her stories. I loved how she described her trip to Japan with her complete recognition that it was so different to her own lived experience. Also her passion for language and being able to communicate with others. I loved her use of language and how she grew and educationally grew over the years. I loved how she promoted woman’s rights to education. I think probably we only scraped the surface but I like to believe that we all continue to learn grow and flourish and I am so proud to have been able to witness her with Ron during her 100th year. 

Rehana Shanks, BELMAS and Principal, Sha Tin Junior School, Hong Kong

Rene, as one of my dearest friends, deepened my philosophical understandings through Socratic Dialogues and by inviting me to train as a Socratic Dialogue facilitator with the Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy, which are experiences that underpin my life’s work. I shall be forever grateful that God introduced me to Rene, and I pray that her commitment to the power of community dialogue for diversity, equity, participation, inclusion and justice lives on through the work. RIP dearest Rene.  

Alison Taysum, Facilitator, UK

Rene introduced me to Socratic Dialogue and its riches over 30 years ago. Her enthusiasm and quiet determination persuaded me, and I have her to thank for this meaningful introduction to purposeful thinking and active listening. In this way, and many others, Rene touched many lives, and made a difference to so many. 

Kate Nathoo, sometime Trustee and Professional Financial Adviser

Read more about Dr Rene Saran’s biography and publications:

Curriculum Vitae

Read here


Read here

“My schooling: a mixed bag of experiences”

(an excerpt from Dr Saran’s autobiography)

Read here