Tom Holloway

Tom Holloway


The following has been put together by Jo Corke and Miall James, with input from several other U3A colleagues, notably Ian Funnell. The authors have never physically met Tom, or indeed each other, but spent quite a lot of time with him online, starting with the vU3A.


Tom was born in London in 1932 to Tommy and Mary Holloway, and educated in London. Although evacuated, with most other London children, at the beginning of WWII, in his case to Exeter, he soon returned to what he considered the ‘excitement’ of London and eventually completed his education there.


After National Service in the RAF (1952-54) he developed his interest in electronics, and in 1965 joined IBM. His time at IBM in described in his YouTube presentation “The Personal Computer and the IBM Toyshop”.

Always interested in progressive, social and cultural issues (he met his wife Anne through Forest School Camps) he soon developed an interest in the educational aspects of the newly developing technology and in 1986 was assigned for two years to the UK National Council for Educational Technology, looking at access technology for children with special needs He also started the ‘Chatback Project’ for communications-impaired children and later was involved in setting up the IBM-UK Support Centre for People with Disabilities, which subsequently became AbilityNet.


Subsequently, he taught website design and setup at Warwickshire College and the University of Coventry, and it was about this time that he became involved with the U3A, which had started a few years previously, in 1981.


However, after 25 years service with IBM Tom retired in 1990. In an interview with ‘The Hindu’ in 2013 Tom said “I took early retirement in order to investigate my interests on how to use technology to help the dispossessed”.


The Holloways lived mainly in London, although with a spell in Ethiopia, where Tom represented IBM in East Africa, but in 1999 he left Leamington Spa, to where he had moved and from then until 2017 lived mainly in Hyderabad, India, where he was involved with a local University and acted as a ‘community worker’ involved principally with making fund-raising videos and setting up websites for charities in the UK and in India. He spent May to August’s in Oxford, although he also travelled extensively.


His involvement with U3A started about 1995 or so, initially with a U3A in the Warwick area, but when he moved his UK base to Oxford he joined Headington U3A. He was elected as Trustee of the Third Age Trust (TAT) in 1998, serving until 2001, and from 1998-2008 was a key member of the team that set up the national website, along with Paul Baron and Alan Bannister. In 1998, too, he and Jean Thompson, former national president of TAT, set up the WorldU3a website and assisted in the setting up of the Australian online, directed at U3A members in small or isolated communities.

On 1 January 2009, after four years of experiments and testing, in which Tom was instrumental, the Virtual University of the Third Age (vU3A)was launched with the intention of offering the same friendship, support and learning enjoyed by terrestrial groups.


From 2001-2020, Tom produced a monthly online newsletter called U3A Signpost and in 2006-8 he looked after the website for the international U3A organisation, AIUTA, for Stan Miller, its UK based President at that time.

However, from the middle of the decade Tom was more involved internationally than with British U3A’s, and there is a long list of countries world-wide where Tom supported and encouraged the development of U3a’s; the Singapore U3a in 2005, the Indian Society of U3A’s in 2008, and its conferences in 2010, and over the next few years several others, especially in Asia, but also Iceland. He also regularly helped organise, and of course attended conferences especially, but not exclusively, in the Asia-Pacific Region. More recently, he has assisted in the development of U3a’s in Africa, notably Nigeria, Botswana and Zimbabwe.


In 2023, of course, he was honoured by the Government of Kazakhstan for his efforts there.

After some years at vU3A Tom, by now back in Oxford, became involved with the newly formed U3A Communities-Online. In a WhatsApp group in 2021 he shared his online discussions with a group of former students in Hyderabad and Beijing who were, to his obvious pleasure, continuing his work as teachers. He was also working with the Young Zoomers Club, established in Hyderabad in 2019 with the purpose of providing a basic education to students who are from economically poor sections of the society.


At the time of his death, he was Secretary/General of the WorldU3A Online Service website and on the Advisory and Evaluation Board of TAO (Third Age Online), funded by Europe’s Ambient Assisted Living Project.


In 2020, acknowledging his health problems, Tom said:

” I believe that I can do no more with the remainder of my life ….. (than) by devoting it to the education needs of the rising generation of scheduled caste Dalit and disadvantaged children. They will inherit the world we have made, and they will have the task of repairing the damage we have done to that world. ”


That, for us, is Tom in a nutshell.

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