Pavilion sunset

Biography

Tom grew up in Wimbledon and attended King’s College School where he achieved the maximum score in the International Baccalaureate. He matriculated in 2008 in the first mixed cohort of men and women at St Hilda’s College. He was as much the life and soul of library study breaks as college bops, which he often attended wearing a crocodile onesie, regardless of the theme. He graduated with First Class honours in History, having also perfected his punting skills, and with many friends to whom he remained close. He then completed a Master of Studies in Modern British and European History at Mansfield College in 2012.

At the start of his career, as a freelance film and TV critic, Tom wrote in a review of Borgen for The Independent, that the character who said that “No one wants to read about the EU. It’s too complicated and unsexy” had “got an eye for the elephant in every newspaper’s editor room.”

Tom entered that room when he became a sub-editor in 2013 at the Daily Mail and moved to the London Evening Standard in 2014, where he rose up the ranks quickly becoming a senior sub-editor, working on the front page and rolling stories. He joined The Times initially as a freelancer on the Comment section in 2017 and then as permanent staff in 2018. At the time of his death Tom was a chief sub-editor at The Times and a much loved and respected colleague.

One co-worker of Tom’s defined being a sub-editor as “the ability to bring order to the disorganised elements of a raw story, the inquisitiveness to question every facet of every fact, the instinct to know when things need sorting out and the initiative to just get on and do it. A natural way with words and simple desire to make things correct. Or to define it more succinctly: Tom.”

In 2020 Tom decided to further develop his talents as a scholar of history and started a part-time PhD at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 2021 researching the awarding of knighthoods in the Caroline period to further our understanding of the role of honours in British culture and society.

Aside from his intellectual powers, which he wore lightly, Tom had enormous generosity of spirit, attentive curiosity, charm and humour, and was dubbed by friends as ‘the funniest man in the room’.

A keen cyclist, he cycled from Paris to Geneva in 2018 and had hoped to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2020, but the pandemic threw that plan off course. He also loved being out on the river and had many adventures with friends on the Cherwell, the Wye and latterly the Thames in his kayak.

When Tom asked the love of his life Jessica to marry him in 2019 he thought their biggest challenge in the run up to their wedding would be catering to the guest who had specified Guinness as a dietary requirement. Five months later, the world went into lockdown on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. Reflecting on the intervening time at their wedding in August 2021, Tom said “I know this past year has been different things to different people, at different times: an upheaval or an inconvenience; a setback or a success; an epiphany, a tragedy; an ending, or a new beginning. To me it has chiefly been a test of hope. And what I’ve come to understand, more than I ever knew before, is that to be with you is to be hopeful. To be with you is to believe in the best in people, and to believe in tomorrow. So, while tonight is about tonight, I’d like my last toast to be to tomorrow.”

Memorial fund

St Hilda’s College has established a memorial fund in Tom Leece’s name that will receive gifts from family, friends and former students to benefit future generations. Donations will be used to create a History study booth in Tom’s name in the library. The library lies at the very heart of the college and serves all students. When Tom was an undergraduate he was known to wait outside until the library opened in the mornings and spent many happy hours there reading, writing and brimming with ideas. The redevelopment of the site that is underway will provide step-free access to the library from the garden and change the layout to support small group discussion and project work. The goal of the fund is to remember Tom’s great passion for History and to help others realise their potential and talent, which were so evident in Tom but were tragically lost following his sudden death in a road traffic accident at the age of 32.

DONATE

Donate by Card

Donate by Direct Debit

Alternatively you can call +44 (0)1865 276828. Please make cheques payable to St Hilda’s College, write on the back of the cheque ‘Tom Leece Memorial Fund’ and send it to the Development Office, St Hilda’s College, Oxford OX4 1DY.

Positions

  • Alumna

Subjects

  • History

Associations

Tom Leece