Peter Askonas

Ethicist and Catholic scholar


Peter Francis Askonas, businessman and ethicist: born Vienna 1 November 1919; married 1981 Countess Sylvia Des Fours (one stepson); died Epsom, Surrey 8 January 2007.

Working in his own family business led Peter Askonas to the ethical side of his profession and he became the co-founder, Chairman and later Honorary Vice-President of the Christian Association of Business Executives. For 16 years he was the association's Delegate to Uniapac (International Union of Christian Employers). He was subsequently appointed lecturer and researcher at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, and also as a lecturer and Fellow of Heythrop College, London University.

He was born in Vienna in 1919 of Jewish parents. Leaving Austria in 1937, he came to England and studied at Nottingham University for a Diploma in Textiles and Management. In the early 1940s he emigrated to Canada, where his war job was in aircraft manufacture (production study), some innovative work in analysis of behaviour patterns and statistical forecasting.

From 1943 he undertook part-time studies in philosophy at the Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto. There he was specially influenced by Etienne Gilson, the distinguished medieval scholar and academic expert in ethics and Catholic social teaching, and Jacques Maritain. During this period he converted to Catholicism and, right to the end of his life, pursued an active interest in Catholic social teaching and its potential influence on public policy and business life, and always founded on the principles of Thomas Aquinas inherited from his two mentors.

He returned to England in 1947 and after the death of his father took over the senior executive of the family business Hellasco & Associated Companies, a medium group in textiles, with affiliated units in several European and East-Asian countries. This task occupied most of his working life until the business was taken over in the 1990s. Besides running the business and travelling frequently to the Far East, he continued with philosophy and theology studies.

Peter Askonas was introduced to Heythrop College by Fr Peter Hackett SJ in 1991 and taught courses there from 1991 to 1998 on Theology of Society and Citizenship and initiated series of Inter-collegiate Colloquia in this area. He was elected into the college's Fellowship in 2001.

In the 1980s he co-operated with the Rev Frank McHugh in setting up at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, in Surrey, the Christian Social Ethics Research Unit, which undertook research in Catholic social thought and public policy, with particular interest in finance ethics. This led to a number of joint publications on debt, morals and money. In 1990 this work moved to the Von Hügel Institute at St Edmund's College, Cambridge.

Peter Askonas organised conferences and seminars all over the country, and was instrumental in initiating discussion groups among the laity in the Catholic Church. A book very close to his heart, which he co-edited with Professor Stephen F. Frowen and contributed to, was Welfare and Values: challenging the culture of unconcern (1997). It was a follow-up of a conference held at St George's House, Windsor Castle, in 1991 and deals with the ever-growing gap between escalating costs of welfare to meet a wide range of social needs and available resources.

A further book entitled Social Inclusion: possibilities and tension followed in 2000. Co-edited with Angus Stewart, it examines against the background of globalisation, risk and cultural pluralism the problem of social exclusion and its possible remedies.

Peter Askonas had many interests and passions. His great love was the mountains, and he conquered many of the 4,000m peaks in the Alps. He was a member of the Swiss Alpine Club, section Zermatt, for 50 years.

He was also a music lover and connoisseur and was close friends with the singers Hans Hotter, Sena Jurinac, Hermann Prey and others, whom he knew through his sister Lies Askonas, the impresario and founder in 1955 of the Lies Askonas agency, now Askonas Holt.

Stephen Frowen

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific