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Dr James (Jim) MacGregor

James (Jim) MacGregor

Members will be very sorry to learn of the death of Dr James (Jim) MacGregor, former Registrar of the University, on 5 May 2007.

Born in 1913 at Balloch, on the shores of Loch Lomond, James MacGregor was educated at Christ Church Grammar School and Ermysteds Grammar School, Skipton, and was to retain strong personal and professional connections with North Yorkshire throughout his life. He graduated with first class honours in history at the University of Liverpool, where he also obtained a Graduate Diploma in Education, before working as a schoolmaster at Barnoldswick Modern School and then serving with the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, attaining the rank of staff officer. At the end of the war he took a post as Tutor for Services Education with the regional Committee for Adult Education in H. M. Forces. It was this experience which led to his first appointment with the University in 1949, not as an administrator, but rather as an academic, based in Catterick, lecturing in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies on Educational Method.

James MacGregors interest in adult education, with particular reference to the armed forces, was reflected in the choice of topic for his MEd thesis (1949) concerning adult and technical education in the Skipton region, and his PhD thesis (1954) on the development of adult education in the army. Indeed, his expertise was such that the following year he was seconded to the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, as Acting Director of Extra-Mural Studies, where he spent eighteen months establishing and organising that department. He was subsequently to produce a book Development of Education in Nigeria (1961) based upon his research and experience.

It was not until 1961 that Jim MacGregor (as so many colleagues knew him) made the transition from academic to administrator, when he was seconded for twelve months to act as Assistant Registrar. He quickly proved himself an extremely able administrator, and was appointed to a permanent position as Assistant Registrar for student affairs in 1962 and then, in 1965, as the Universitys first Deputy Registrar. In 1971 he became the natural successor to Dr J. V. Loach as Registrar, only the fourth holder of the role since the University was granted its Charter in 1904. James MacGregors tenure as Registrar coincided with a period of many changes for the University, all of which he negotiated with consummate skill and enviable equanimity. A meticulous and clear-sighted man, with a vast knowledge of University procedure and protocol, he did not flinch from uncomfortable truths, yet he was also a humorous and caring man, whose concern for friends, colleagues and students will be remembered with warm appreciation. He was always accessible to colleagues with the door to his office, as many will remember, customarily open. Perhaps due in part to his background in education and lecturing, he had a keen sensibility for the academic viewpoint and was consequently able to foster the good relations between academics and administrators so necessary to the smooth and effective running of such a large institution. Over the years, he kept in touch with many former students, who continued to benefit from his wise and unassuming counsel, and often surprised the student officers with the depth and breadth of his interest in student affairs.

James MacGregors commitment to the work of the University was such that he could have been excused for having little time for other interests. The role of Registrar was complex and demanding, encompassing, in addition to the work of day-to-day management, many formal and social obligations during the evenings and weekends. And yet he was also able to play an active part at the national level in the Higher Education sector, with the Universities Central Council for Admissions, for example, and the Inter-University Council which worked to promote higher education in the Commonwealth. His expertise was sought on several occasions by developing institutions in Africa, and in 1974 he was able to return to Nigeria, a country in which he had an abiding interest, to work with the University of Ahmadu Bello which was struggling under the difficult circumstances of the time to establish a suitable framework for its administration and organisation. Closer to home, he served for a decade as the representative of the University on the governing bodies of two North Yorkshire schools: Northallerton Grammar School and Yorebridge Grammar School, Askrigg, and was to represent the University on the Yorkshire Regional Health Authority until a short time after his retirement. His commitment to public service also found expression in his work as a trustee, and volunteer treasurer, to the Yorkshire Cancer Research Campaign. Acting closely and assiduously with his chairman, Dr Douglas Shortridge, Dr MacGregor managed the funds which paid for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner the first in the country which went to the University of Hull.

Dr MacGregors involvement with the University did not end with his retirement in 1979, since he promptly returned on a part-time basis as the first University Archivist (a post he held until 1983), establishing the archive in its current form and location. His enthusiasm for University affairs evidently undimmed, he also served as Chair of Convocation, and therefore ex officio on the University Court and Council, between 1982 and 1986. The title of Emeritus Registrar was conferred upon James MacGregor on his retirement and, in 1980 the University honoured him with the award of an Honorary Degree (LLD); in that same year, his outstanding service to the wider world of education was recognised by the conferment of an OBE in the New Years Honours list, a distinction he received with characteristic modesty.

James MacGregor will be remembered for his unstinting devotion to the University, to which he made such a distinguished contribution over his long and varied career. He was an honest and an honourable man who commanded the professional respect of colleagues and students, but also gained their affection and abiding loyalty by dint of his many quiet kindnesses and his gift, remarked upon throughout his career, for encouraging people simply to get along with one another. Above all, he was always his own man.