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Public Success, Private Grief

Peter Cowley, OH 1964-73, is shortly publishing a memoir, which covers some of the challenges he has endured
19 Jan 2024
OH News

Peter Cowley, OH 1964-73, followed in his family footsteps when he started his education at Hymers College.  His grandfather, father and Uncles all studied at the school before him. His grandfather, Richard Lawton Cowley, OH 1904-08, studied at the school, followed by his younger brothers, Francis Howard Cowley, OH 1904-08 and Douglas Higham Cowley, OH 1910-18.  Later, his father, Derek Lawton Cowley, OH 1933-42, attended the school.  He was also followed by his younger brothers, Philip Anthony Francis Cowley, OH 1936-44 and Roger Griffin Cowley, OH 1941-50.

I followed a conventional infant, primary, junior, senior school journey, all within two miles of home. I have little recollection of my infant and primary schools and although must have learnt things, my time seemed to be mainly social, but I suspect that is the same for all.  The Junior and Senior schools were both at Hymers College, the same school that my grandfather, father and uncles had attended. It was a pretty traditional private school, where we wore uniforms all the way through with caps until the sixth form.

Overall, I didn’t really enjoy school until the upper Sixth Form when I got jobs in both the Chemistry and Physics laboratories and got to know the heads of those departments well. They were called Alex (Sutton) and Cod (at least, that was his nickname, his real name was Wilf Watton) and they took me under their wings. I would say they were my first mentors.  I was very immature, but my studiousness got me into a good university. 

Extract from "Public Success, Private Grief"

After completing three A-Levels in Maths, Physics, and Chemistry, Peter went on to Cambridge University to study Engineering and Computer Science.  However, academia didn't finish there for Peter, as throughout his life he continued studying, gaining an Open University degree in Psychology in 1996 and more recently Human Biology in 2022, an A Level in Law in 2001, a diploma in Financial Management in 2002 and last year, in 2023, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

As well as his studies, Peter carved out a successful career, becoming one of Europe’s best-known angel investors and active supporters of British entrepreneurship.  He has invested in over 75 technology startups and founded a further 12 technology and construction companies of his own.

His first book, The Invested Investor, published in 2018, is widely recognised as the startup community’s bible.  He co-wrote a second book, Founder to Founder in 2020 and is currently finishing his next book, an inspirational memoir, which will be available to purchase in April 2024.

My inspirational journey, described in this book, is one of extremes. It shows how I overcame a series of adverse life events, every single one of which could have been too much to bear in one lifetime. I explain how I managed to come out still fighting, living life to the full and contributing to the health and happiness of others.

Behind his business successes, Peter has endured immense grief and personal setbacks. He has lost two of his three children to suicide, the mother of his children died unexpectedly, he lost his sister to alcoholism, and his brother, David Anthony Cowley, OH 1966-75, at the age of 21, to cancer.  He has also had his struggles and has been in recovery from alcoholism for the last two decades.

Then in late 2021, he was diagnosed with terminal Stage 4c cancer. Peter is now writing his final book in his last few months, together with his wife, Liesbeth and they are hoping to help other cancer patients with his moving story.

Public Success, Private Grief details for the first time the succession of tragic events which have shaped Peter’s life and fuelled his relentless drive and ambition. Peter shares how he has managed to find positivity and strength in the face of abject adversity, turning post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic success instead.

This last book doesn’t make easy reading. But it is, at its heart and as is intended, an inspirational and self-empowering memoir about overcoming tragedy and forging resilience, which many will benefit from.

To find out more about Peter's upcoming book and also about his amazing career and achievements, which are too lengthy to give them justice in this story, please visit Peter's website at

His story has also recently been published on other external web sites:


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