(1957 – 27 April 2021)
Obituary kindly contributed by Phil Marsh, OW 1975.
‘Mike Schultz died on 27th April after suffering a heart attack. His sudden death has robbed us of a friend, colleague and adventurer, someone with a unique mix of talents and qualities, and a natural modesty which belied them. He will be missed by all those who knew and loved him.
Mike grew up initially in Surrey, then in Stanton St John, a few miles from Oxford, where the family had settled after his father was offered a post at the University. After attending the local primary school Mike started at MCS in 1968 aged eleven. Always able and quietly confident, he did well academically but would lend his hand to anything. He excelled at rowing and became head of boats in his final year; played rugby for the 2nd XV; was made Junior Under Officer in the Army section of the Combined Cadet Force; played violin in the 2nd orchestra; and dabbled in school drama. His abilities and his standing among his peers led to him being made a school prefect.
After A Levels Mike had two gap years, much of which he spent travelling. He went up to Cambridge in 1977 to read social anthropology, graduating in 1980 with a 2:1. For a short period following university he spent time driving trucks of hardy tourists through Africa for an adventure holiday company. On one trip he learned of a tribe of Forest People in what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He spent 18 months living with them for his PhD study, taking forward the work of the Cambridge anthropology department on the lives and livelihoods of hunter gatherers and their vulnerability to farmers encroaching on their traditional habitat – the tropical rain forest. On his return to the UK Mike was worryingly thin and suffering from malaria, but he completed his thesis and was awarded his PhD in 1990.
The needs of Forest Peoples and the state of their environment remained a concern for Mike. He was a committed internationalist and an avid Remainer. His ‘cares’ on his Linked In page are for Civil Rights, Social Action, Economic Empowerment and Human Rights.
Mike’s interest in development led him to join the Overseas Development Administration, latterly the Department for International Development; during a 22-year career there he had a number of roles and ultimately became Director of Strategic Policy. His work took him far and wide, from Nepal to Thailand, Bangladesh to Nigeria, London to New York, where he was a member of the UK mission to the United Nations, and many other places between. Mike was a social scientist who applied his scientific skills to great practical effect in the application and evaluation of development policy. Among his many achievements he was instrumental in the provision of tools for thousands of farmers in Kenya which enabled them to improve drainage on their land and enhance their life chances.
Mike took early retirement in 2010 but continued working as a management consultant on a wide range of policy impact projects for the World Bank, African Bank and Foreign and Commonwealth Office among others, based at his new home back in Oxford. Relocating there enabled him to be involved in helping care for his elderly mother June until her death.
Mike was great company: well informed, with interesting perspectives on the big issues, and a wonderfully dry sense of humour. He made lifelong friends at school and those of us who took holidays with him, including recent annual walking trips, always enjoyed his banter and sense of fun, his energy and positive outlook on life, and his excellent cooking. But perhaps above all we valued Mike’s all-round competence in practical matters alongside his generosity of spirit: he was utterly dependable and always able to offer support, wisdom and common sense. As many who knew him have said, he was always there when you needed him.
He had been suffering from heart problems for nearly twenty years but a triple bypass and subsequent treatment appeared to have worked well. In typical fashion he didn’t let his condition limit his activities and he continued to make the most of life, to the benefit of many of us. Sadly it caught up with him and he died at what seems a tragically young age.
Mike left two brothers, a sister, six nieces and nephews, and many friends. He was a great brother, uncle and friend, and his death leaves a huge gap in our lives. We shall miss him badly.’