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Obituary: Margaret McCreath

We are very sorry to have to let colleagues know of the death, on 11 July 2008, of Miss Margaret McCreath, former Personal Assistant to Lord Boyle whilst he was Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Born into a farming family in Wigtownshire, Margaret McCreath completed her secondary education at Douglas-Ewart High School in Newton Stewart, where she was Dux and Gold Medallist. She went on to the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1947 with mathematics as her main subject. Following a year at secretarial college, she held appointments as Personal Assistant to senior industrialists, to the Chief Education Officer of Cambridgeshire and to the Principal of Bedford College, University of London. In 1957, she became PA to the then Rector of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, Sir Patrick Linstead, who was closely associated with a number of major national enquiries, including the influential Robbins Committee on the future of higher education. Margaret McCreath gave immense help to the Robbins Committee, and as a result of this and her other work at Imperial, she gained what was for someone still relatively new to the field a perhaps unparalleled insight into the educational system of the time; certainly, it was an experience that was to shape much of her future. In 1963, she became the first Publications Officer at Imperial, responsible for handling Press relations and overseeing the Colleges publications. After eighteen months in this post, she moved to a Fellowship in the Department of Mathematics at the newly-established University of Essex she arrived one week after the first building opened to take a major part in a large-scale research project. Sponsored by the Royal Statistical Society and supported by the Department of Education and Science, this was an investigation of the transition from secondary to higher education and the factors influencing student choice. At the time one of the largest surveys of its kind ever undertaken, it involved nearly 150 schools and colleges of further education in England and Wales, with data being obtained from well over 20,000 students. Much of the design, organisation and conduct of the investigation fell to Margaret McCreath, the success of which was facilitated by the harmonious working relationships she developed with a wide range of head teachers and their staff. Later, she was the principal author of many of the reports that emanated from the project and presented the findings in national fora.

Margaret McCreath was ideally qualified, therefore, to join Leeds as Personal Assistant to Lord Boyle in 1970. To her new responsibilities, she brought a quiet but firm personality, sound judgement and a capacity for meticulously fulfilling her brief. She retained an active interest in educational research, one fruit of which was her involvement in a consultative capacity with a Nuffield Foundation enquiry into undergraduate teaching in 1974. With her Registry colleagues, Margaret enjoyed a happy and harmonious relationship, reflecting her kind and wise personality, and her considerable gift for friendship. She also served for some twelve years as the Universitys representative on the Governing Body of Rossett High School in Harrogate.

Art, music and literature were all very important to Margaret McCreath and her early retirement in 1982 provided her with much increased opportunity to enjoy these pastimes. Art in particular became a consuming enthusiasm. She studied with great enjoyment at Jacob Kramer College and proved a gifted amateur artist with a very good sense of colour. She worked not only in oils but produced ceramics, engravings some of which were exhibited within the University and textiles. She became well known in local artistic circles, forging many new friendships in the process. She re-engaged for a time with the University in the mid-1980s, when her long-standing interest in student welfare matters was harnessed in pursuit of a project to consider the scope for setting up a Student Counselling Service.

Margaret McCreath is survived by her brother, Tom, and sister, Janet.

The funeral will be held at Lawnswood Cemetery and Crematorium, Otley Road, Leeds 16, at 2.20pm on Friday 18 July. There are to be family flowers only; donations may be made to Sue Ryder Care, Wheatfields Hospice, Grove Road, Leeds LS6 2AE. Those attending the funeral are invited to join the family afterwards at the Weetwood Hall Hotel.

In memory of Margaret McCreath, the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half-mast on Friday afternoon.

Published: 15 July 2008