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Sally Macgill

As colleagues will be aware, Sally Macgill, Professor of Integrated Environmental Management in the School of Earth and Environment, is, very sadly, missing presumed dead in Thailand following the tsunami on 26 December. Sally was on holiday with her two daughters, Edith and Alice. Edith has survived, but Alice too is missing.

I am sure that all colleagues will join me in offering our deepest sympathy and support to Sally's family for the enormous loss they have suffered.

The following appreciation of Sally is based on contributions from Sir Alan Wilson, and Professors David Kay, Peter Mackie and Stephen Mobbs.

Sally Macgill was a significant figure in the University, whose career, encompassing substantial contributions in research, teaching, administration and academic management, was remarkable for its breadth, richness and achievement.

Sally entered the University in 1970, graduating in 1973 with a first-class joint honours degree in Mathematics and Economics. As an undergraduate, she found time to be extensively involved in the musical life of the institution, playing the violin in the symphony, chamber and light opera orchestras. (Music, indeed, remained an enduring interest of Sallys: she was a current member of the Leeds Sinfonia.)

After graduation, Sally proceeded to read for a PhD in the School of Geography, where her principal supervisor was Professor Alan Wilson, later Vice-Chancellor of the University. Sallys research was on aspects of urban and regional modelling with particular reference to energy and materials flows. Her powerful critical intelligence and intellectual calibre rapidly manifested themselves and she published her first paper (jointly with two co-authors) in 1974, while still a research student. During the 1970s she went on to publish six papers as sole author, each representing a distinguished contribution to the modelling field. Her PhD was awarded in 1978. A book Optimisation in Locational Analysis and Transport Planning, of which Sally and Alan Wilson were two of the co-authors, was published in 1981. Sallys work on urban and regional modelling won her a national and international reputation, one of her most notable contributions being her ability to integrate and reconcile seemingly diverse approaches. Her research also did much to illuminate the relevance and applicability of the hitherto controversial q-analysis technique in urban modelling.

Sallys first academic post was in 1976, as research assistant on a project in the School of Geography on the development and application of the theory of urban systems. The following year, she successfully applied in for a lectureship in the School. In that post, Sally instigated the development of a number of new courses on topics including energy resources and environmental risk. Her boundless intellectual vigour, allied to her capacity for penetrating and rigorous analysis, also led her to make substantial, important and original contributions to research in these new areas. In particular, she published extensively on environmental risk assessment and management, and on the associated field of public risk perception the attitudes and responses of individuals and communities to perceived environmental threats, such as the location of potentially hazardous installations. Her articles continued to appear in leading academic journals and, in 1987, her book The Politics of Anxiety: Sellafields cancer-link controversy was published, one reviewer describing it as social science at its best. Sallys research received extensive support from the Economic and Social Research Council and she was much in demand as a consultant to research and policy-making bodies, both in this country and overseas.

In 1991, Sallys career took a substantial change of direction, when she joined the central administration as Director of Planning (and later Management Information Systems). This was not the abrupt transition that might have appeared on the surface; at the invitation of Alan Wilson, then Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Sally had effectively been seconded for much of the preceding two years to guide the development of the Universitys resource centre system, involving the introduction of devolved budgeting to cost centres and, through the resource centre model, a radically new approach to the internal allocation of resources. Lack of appropriate software had threatened to delay this project for several years but Sallys expertise overcame this major obstacle and she proceeded successfully to oversee the introduction, implementation and continued development of the new system. In terms of the sheer scale of data handling and transmission alone, this was a prodigious achievement. As Director of Planning and MIS, Sally was also active and influential in a number of other areas of planning and policy development at a time of rapid and intensive change within the University.

In 1995, Sally took the opportunity to resume her academic career, joining the recently-established Environment Centre. Here, her insight and depth of experience proved invaluable. Sally demonstrated a unique ability to make environmental science and management accessible to both science and social science students. Her visionary approach to teaching, not only in the classroom but also in the planning of new degree programmes, has been central to the success of environmental education at Leeds. From modest beginnings, she built up a large high-quality degree programme in environmental science, underpinned by the development of innovative and internationally-acclaimed approaches to teaching and teaching materials, including e-learning. A CD resulting from Sallys multi-media teaching development work for which she attracted external funding totalling nearly 0.5 million was awarded a European prize (Europrix 2000), and she was also the recipient of a BT University Development Award to fund the adaptation of multi-media teaching resources to meet the needs of dyslexic and visually-impaired students. The creation of a strong and dynamic teaching programme facilitated the evolution of the Environment Centre into a full school the School of the Environment in 2000. Following its merger in 2004 with the School of Earth Sciences, to form the School of Earth and Environment, Sally was the natural choice to lead the integration of teaching programmes, a task she approached with characteristic acumen and enterprise qualities which will inspire her colleagues who will be left to complete the process she successfully set in train.

In parallel with her teaching responsibilities, Sally successfully re-established her research activities, creating a strong interdisciplinary research group covering a range of Environmental Management and Risk Management areas; securing substantial external grants from research councils and other funding bodies; and maintaining her prolific record of publications in leading journals. Within a few years, Sallys research group was of sufficient stature to become the Sustainability Research Institute, advancing the Schools commitment to multi-disciplinary research, based on a combination of science and social science methodologies. Sally herself was an exemplar of this approach: in her projects on sustainable water management, for example, she combined social science and rigorous quantitative analysis to produce a novel and critical perspective on the uncertainties inherent in assessment of risks from pollutants in drinking water. Her recent research, using the idea of the periodic table in Chemistry to provide a new framework for risk analysis, was another example of her talent for imaginatively drawing on concepts from one field to inform and illustrate another. Always conscious of the importance of nurturing new scholars, Sally also continued to be, as she had been during her time in Geography, an encouraging, supportive and effective supervisor of research students and those in the early stages of their academic careers.

In 2002, Sally was appointed Professor of Integrated Environmental Management. Her capacity for academic leadership was amply demonstrated in the qualities she brought to the discharge of her responsibilities as Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Earth and Environment from 1997 to 2002; and as Director of Learning and Teaching from 1996 onwards, initially in the Environment Centre and subsequently in both Schools. She served as a member of the Senate continuously from 1996 onwards, and of a broad swathe of other committees. Reflecting the esteem in which Sally was held within the academic and the student communities, she was invited to chair a number of groups on specific pedagogical, administrative and welfare issues; the resultant reports epitomised that acutely perceptive, rational, judicious and fair-minded approach which were among the hallmarks of Sallys entire career within the University.

The loss of Sally Macgill at the height of her powers is a grievous blow to the University, her colleagues, and the many hundreds of students, past and present, who were fortunate enough to be taught by her. Dedicated, determined and clear-sighted, unerringly sound in her judgement, and a refreshingly honest and direct friend and colleague, Sally, by dint of her prowess, spirit and vision, has left an indelible imprint on the life and work of the University. She will be very much missed.