“Rik Medlik - visionary!”
Hotel and catering graduate Roger Stamp recalls inspirational academic Rik Medlik and student life at Surrey in the early 1970s…
“Professor Rik Medlik ran the hotel and catering administration course at Surrey and he was a real visionary,” says Roger, who arrived at the University in 1970 to begin his four-year degree in that subject. “He ensured the programme featured practical elements to prepare students for work in those sectors, while including modules on management theory, accounting and marketing.
“He was ahead of his time when it came to building a course that fully prepared students to work in different areas of the industry.”
Surrey or Strathclyde
Roger’s journey to Surrey from his home in Preston began with a part-time job in the catering sector.
He explains: “I decided quite early on that I wanted to continue down that road. There were only two places that offered hotel and catering courses at the time. Surrey was one and the other was Strathclyde. The attraction of Surrey was it was close to London.
“I remember a teacher in my sixth form was very unsupportive about the idea, sneeringly telling me I didn’t need qualifications for that sort of work.”
Lancastrian Roger, however, followed his passion and arrived in Guildford in 1970.
“Accommodation was in short supply,” he recalls. “The University put out an appeal to local residents to offer spare rooms to undergraduates.
“About 80 per cent of students were from the Home Counties and they went home most weekends. Coming from Preston meant that option was difficult for me.
“I ended up in digs off-campus and I was a bit removed from it all. It was a bit galling to visit Stag Hill at weekends to see loads of empty rooms, while I had to trek in from the wilds of Guildford.”
Living arrangements aside, Roger was won over by the quality of the course and its inspirational leader.
“In the shape of Professor Medlik, I was taught by the man who metaphorically wrote the book on the hotel sector,” he says. “He also wrote and contributed to many textbooks. Yet, despite his academic brilliance, he was always approachable.
“I and my future wife planned a working summer break in the USA. But there was a reception all students were ordered to attend. If we’d have been forced into going, we’d have missed our flights to America.
“I explained the situation to the Professor and his response was typically measured: ‘This is not particularly desirable, but neither is it disastrous.’ He helped us escape the reception. He offered to put us in touch with his contacts at the University of Michigan, too.”
Roger remembers his year in industry was particularly memorable.
“It was an amazing experience,” he says. “I worked in London at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch and the Regent Palace in Piccadilly Circus.
“I shared a flat near Ladbroke Grove station with four other students. It wasn’t a gentrified area back then and it could be pretty rough. Police sirens were a common feature of life. I remember watching the 1972 Olympics marathon on the TV, oblivious to the fact the launderette across the road was on fire.”
After graduation, Roger went into the hotel and catering industry in London.
“But I found the capital quite claustrophobic, so I moved to Gloucestershire,” he reveals. “I then moved into teaching and I spent 27 years as a lecturer.
“After that, I had a career change and I moved into golf club management. I’m retired now, but I still volunteer at my local club. Most recently, I’ve helped them comply with the latest child protection regulations.”
“My abiding memory of my time at Surrey is the diverse and brilliant collective of people I mixed with," adds Roger. "I made a number of lifetime friends. I’m still in touch with many of them nearly 50 years on.
“The course introduced me to different opportunities within the hotel and catering sector. We also benefitted from excellent lecturers and brilliant visiting speakers. I took a lot of what I learnt at Surrey into my industry roles and my job as a lecturer. They were good times.”