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Obituary: Sheona Ferguson

It is very sad to record that Sheona Ferguson died on Monday 24 February 2003.

After leaving school (in Malvern), Sheona trained as a secretary, and then worked for a few months in the Registry at Oxford before moving to Paris, where she spent three years as secretary to the Deputy Secretary General of NATO. Her next job was in London, working for the President of SKOL International, but after two years there she left to study as a mature student for an English degree at Birmingham.

Sheona graduated in 1971, and was appointed to a post of administrative assistant at Leeds that year. She was to spend over twenty years in the central administration, undertaking a wide range of responsibilities, including in particular servicing the faculty boards of science and of engineering, and their courses committees. She was promoted to senior administrative assistant in 1980, and to assistant registrar in 1983. Sheona moved to combined studies - now the science division of the Centre for Joint Honours - in 1993, and worked there until she was taken ill last year.

Sheona was an unfailingly helpful, gracious and generous colleague, who was wholly dedicated to her work, and to the University, and who put in many extra hours to ensure that the job was done well. Her complete professionalism, her instinctive rapport with academic colleagues, and her engaging and sociable personality, made her greatly liked and respected throughout the University. Within the administration, Sheona took responsibility for co-ordinating the induction of new colleagues, all of whom found her a mine of valuable information and a sure guide to the subtleties and nuances of servicing committees and many other facets of administration. Sheona's move to combined studies gave her the opportunity for a much closer involvement with students, an experience she came greatly to enjoy. Her vast knowledge of the regulations governing degree programmes was invariably applied intelligently, sensitively and sympathetically. Although Sheona could be firm with the indolent and the inattentive, she was deeply wedded to the welfare and best interests of the centre's students, those in need finding in her a sure source of practical help and support.

Sheona had a strong sense of community with the University, its history and its rituals. Her participation in degree ceremonies provided one regular outlet for this. She was a senior marshal - always wholly reliable, always radiating reassurance to nervous graduands and colleagues alike, and always transmitting her infectious joy in the occasion. Her services were much in demand for appointing committees, and she played a conspicuous part in other University activities - from assisting in the stage management of the Medieval Mystery Play productions in the 1970s to open days in the 1990s.

In her private life, Sheona enjoyed a wide range of interests. Walking, wine, classical music, opera, theatre, ballet, food - and televised tennis and snooker - were all favourite pastimes. Sheona was a long-standing and enthusiastic member of a number of the University's clubs, such as the Walking and Wine Clubs in the SCR and the Biologists' Wine Tasting circle. Her passion for walking took her to many corners of Europe, from which she invariably returned with a string of interesting and amusing anecdotes. Sheona's linguistic gifts, honed by her time in Paris and evening classes at Leeds Metropolitan University, ensured she was seldom at a loss in conversing with the locals, in whatever distant hamlet she happened to find herself. She had a lifelong love for, and a deep knowledge of, the arts, making her the ideal companion with whom to enjoy a concert, play or opera. Her many friends across the University will miss her sorely, as I shall.

The funeral will be private, but all are welcome to the preceding Memorial Tribute - at 11 am on Friday 7 March in the Clothworkers' Centenary Concert Hall. (Entrance is through the new Music School, at the bottom of Cavendish Road.) The family have asked that no flowers be sent, but donations in lieu may be made to Wheatfields Hospice. Cheques, made payable to Sue Ryder Care Wheatfields, should be sent to Sue Ryder Care Wheatfields, Grove Road, Leeds, LS6 2AE. Donations may be made through the Gift Aid Scheme (a copy of the form can be obtained from the secretariat ext 34036). If you decide to make a donation, the staff at Wheatfields would be grateful if you would mention that it is in Sheona's memory.

Roger Gair University Secretary

Published: 28 February 2003