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Obituary: Eileen Gabbitas

It is with sadness that we report the death, on 25 December 2007, of Miss Eileen Gabbitas, former Lecturer in the Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies.

Miss Gabbitas read English at University College London, graduating in 1946. Having completed the Cambridge University Certificate in Education (in which she was placed in the First Class) in 1948, she spent the next twelve years in school teaching, including spells at Merchant Taylors School for Girls in Liverpool and at High Storrs Grammar School for Girls, Sheffield where she herself had been a pupil. Highly regarded by her colleagues, she nonetheless embarked on a new course in 1960. She returned to university this time to the London School of Economics to read for Certificates in Social Administration and in Applied Social Studies. Having completed her social work training, she was appointed as a Probation Officer with Leeds Probation Service in September 1962. Here, she went on to establish herself as a hard-working, intelligent and sensitive case-worker, and one who showed considerable aptitude in the training of more junior colleagues.

Miss Gabbitas was ideally suited, therefore, for the appointment she took up in the Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies in October 1966, as half-time Tutor in Social Work on the Departments Home Office-funded course for trainee probation officers. Initially, she combined these responsibilities with a continued involvement with the Probation Service but proved so successful in the former that, in March 1969, she was appointed as full-time Lecturer.

Committed to uncompromisingly high standards, an exceptionally able tutor and never one to shirk from any difficult or sensitive issues, Miss Gabbitas was a valued member of the Department as a whole, and of the Applied Social Studies Division in particular. For much of her time in the Department, she had a central involvement with the postgraduate diploma course in applied social studies, the academic and professional training course for social workers and probation officers. Her major teaching was in the core area of social work method; at the same time, she assumed leadership responsibility for the professionally accredited diploma and development of the associated curriculum. This was a time of conflicting values and attitudes in the social work arena, but, by dint of her personal integrity, commitment and clarity of purpose, Miss Gabbitas was able to command respect from all involved in the training of those with the statutory authority to intervene in the lives of others. Miss Gabbitas also helped to establish the Leeds Family Mediation Service and was involved in a number of voluntary social welfare organisations, such as the Cyrenians. With the reorganisation of social work training in the Department in 1981, Miss Gabbitas resumed the teaching of literature as part of her responsibilities but now to adults rather than to the secondary school pupils of her earlier years. She was appointed Acting Head of the Departments Applied Social Studies Division for session 1981-82.

Miss Gabbitas retired in September 1985 although she continued for several years as a part-time tutor, teaching literature classes in North and West Yorkshire to a dedicated following of adult students. In full retirement, a wide range of cultural interests, notably music and literature, absorbed her.

The funeral will be held at 3.30 pm on Monday, 7 January 2008, at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium, Hutcliffe Wood Road, Sheffield, S2 1GD. There are to be family flowers only; any donations may be made to either Shelter or Amnesty International, c/o the funeral directors, John Heath and Sons, Earsham Street, Sheffield, S4.

In memory of Miss Gabbitas, the flag will be flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building on the day of the funeral.

Published: 3 January 2008