More on David Noble – Memories From David Smith, CIPS Past President

I was shocked and so deeply saddened to hear on Friday that my dear friend and CIPS Group CEO, David Noble, had passed away that morning.

David was really quite unique and his very successful career had touched many people, in all parts of the world, in many different ways. I have a huge admiration and respect for him as a procurement professional of the highest standing, a business leader who has led CIPS to new, and indeed giddy, heights but most of all as a loyal and trusted friend.

He was a highly respected and successful senior procurement professional at multinational companies, such as Motorola and IMI plc, and had pioneered category management and strategic sourcing at a time when many of us were still grappling with requisition pads and carbon paper.

He was elected a Fellow of the Institute in 1994, also serving on the fellowship selection panel and the CIPS management board before his appointment as CIPS Group CEO in June 2009. Having a respected and knowledgeable procurement person in the role as the Institute’s CEO was quite novel and what a fantastic decision that turned out to be.

He led the Institute to huge growth, to profitability that could be reinvested in the profession, to a level of respect for procurement not seen before and to promoting professional procurement into almost every corner of the globe. Although not all of his decisions were universally popular, most if not all have turned out to be right. He was never afraid of the tough call and had overseen significant change in CIPS’s structure and organisation.

He loved the Institute dearly and clearly his team liked working there too, as CIPS has again been voted one of Sunday Times Top 100 Best Organisations to work for in the Not-for-Profit Sector.

Although I knew him before his appointment as CEO, I got to know him very well in the years since and we became very good friends, regularly sharing a few beers and we discussed burning issues in business and the weekend’s football results. He helped me enormously during my time on the CIPS Board of Trustees, as CIPS Vice President and President and finally as Chair of the Nominations Committee. I believe that we became a good team, frequently presenting together at many events around the world often as a would be ‘Morecambe and Wise’ double act. He even allowed me to be the former more than the latter!

Once we did a joint after dinner presentation on the eve of the CIPS Australia conference, straight off the plane and onto the podium. He held the audience in the ‘palm of his hand’ (I’m still trying to emulate that!) and I told him it was the best I’d ever seen him do. He said later he was so jetlagged that he remembered nothing of it or anything he said. ‘Jetlagged as a Newt’ was my ongoing reference to that performance.

He had a very dry sense of humour.  As a Londoner, I always liked to refer to him a dour, Northern, flat cap wearing, pigeon fancying, whippet owner (and he would label me as just another ‘Alf Garnett’). He was a lifelong Middlesborough supporter and we would always go the West Ham-Boro matches when we were in the same division (which was not always that often!)

Once, a late night beer had us both committing to play in a football match (that included another former CIPS President in Peter Rushton) against a team about half our age. David turned out to be a Norman Hunter-like tough centre-half, one who was not to be messed with!

I have learned an awful lot from David and I will miss him dearly. My heart goes out to Jenny and his family. RIP Mr Noble, you have left the profession that you loved in a far better place than where you found it and you’ve inspired countless students around the world to do the same.

(David Smith, FCIPS, CIPS President 2012)

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Voices (3)

  1. Gerard Chick:

    Peter a beautiful and fitting tribute.

  2. David .R.Ratnam:

    A very fitting tribute to David Noble whose contribution and legacy to CIPS will long stand the test of time.

  3. David L Loseby:

    David, a great tribute and like you sharing the same platform as David was always memorable.
    It will be difficult for anyone to follow David, as he had pure CIPS DNA running through his veins.
    A huge loss to the profession let alone his family.

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