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Mr Derek Dring

Derek Dring

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn that Mr Derek Dring, former Chief Instructor/School Administrator in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, died on 5 April 2010.

The following obituary has been prepared by Dr Norman Allen, former Senior Lecturer in the School, with contributions from other friends and former colleagues of Mr Dring.

Derek was born on 21st March 1936 and was educated in Leeds at Cockburn High School and Leeds College of Technology. He later obtained the degree of Master of Philosophy at Leeds University. He was a Chartered Engineer and Physicist, a member of the Institute of Physics and an Associate of Trinity College of Music in London. He worked for more than a decade as an engineer and draughtsman in industry, punctuated by National Service in the Army, which he spent in charge of a training facility.

Joining the staff of what was then the Department of Electrical Engineering at the end of 1963, Derek Drings working life revolved around the University for over thirty-five years. Although not having a University background, he rapidly came to be seen as his own man who adapted readily to academic ways. To his many colleagues he was well known for his devotion to the University and his total reliability and dedication to any task he undertook.

He came to the Department as an Instructor, that is, to assist in the operation of the heavy load of laboratory work that was undertaken by students. This was not simply a matter of making sure that apparatus was in good shape; he took part in the supervision of students and proved a sympathetic natural in this respect. Into the smooth organisation and running of undergraduate laboratory classes, he instilled a form of discipline not entirely removed from his earlier army training. This was particularly the case in the First Year Laboratory where students with a variety of backgrounds and needs required a carefully structured programme. The classes were a challenge or a trial (depending on ones point of view) to both students and staff but once they got under way, many a student found benefit in Dereks blunt but kindly advice given on down to earth aspects of their work.

Around 1967, Derek's career took on an added dimension. A new External Professor, Dr. T E Allibone, CBE, FRS, had just been appointed. Dr Allibone was Chief Scientist of the Central Electricity Generating Board and eagerly grasped the opportunity to resume his own research interests in high voltage technology. But his was a part-time appointment and he needed somebody to make preparations for his visits and to assist in the work in the high voltage laboratory. Derek was detailed for the job and he and Allibone complemented each other splendidly. It was a true partnership of a vastly experienced, distinguished scientist who was near retirement and a young man who had little knowledge of his mentors field. Perhaps it helped that both were Yorkshiremen but there can be no doubt that Dereks self-discipline and meticulous approach enabled him to learn from Allibone, to raise his level and to make significant contributions of his own. Out of their work, which was internationally recognised, arose a joint project with a Romanian group and Derek made several visits to that country over the years.

The very successful collaboration between Derek and Professor Allibone lasted for more than a decade and, when the latter retired, his place was taken by Dr Norman Allen, Senior Lecturer in the Department and experienced in the same field. Dereks contributions to research in high voltage continued in this new partnership into the late 1980s. The scope widened: collaboration with groups in both France and Italy as well as in the UK followed and Derek made a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, who came to respect his contributions to the general pool of knowledge. Throughout this time, Dereks teaching activities continued unabated, ensuring that students received an excellent grounding in essential laboratory techniques. He was also prominently involved in the development and delivery of service teaching for other departments within the faculty.

For a substantial part of his career, Derek was extremely active on professional committees, notably those of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), the primary professional body in the field. Initially he joined the committee of the Professional Group of the Institution concerned with Education and Training, later became Chairman and then progressed to a Divisional Board. His teaching experience was frequently brought to bear in judging the professional qualifications of those aspiring to belong to the Institution and he did much work in London in this area. His involvement with the professional bodies also afforded the Department valuable insights into emerging developments.

At the start of the 1990s, Derek assumed responsibility for oversight of the Departments administrative functions. In this capacity, he introduced a number of important and successful initiatives, including considerable expansion of the Departments liaison activities with both schools and industry, and the introduction of a residential workshop for physics and electronics teachers. Derek served as Departmental Safety Officer from 1979 onwards and, as the Universitys representative on a working party of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), was an important influence on the outcome of discussions with the Chief Electrical Inspector of the Health and Safety Executive on an HSE policy document on electrical safety in universities. His involvement in a symposium held in Leeds by the Army Engineering Corps resulted in his becoming responsible for Army liaison within the Department.

Derek was also involved in the investigation by North Yorkshire Fire Brigade into the causes of the York Minster Fire of 1984.

After retiring from the University in 1999, Derek became Director of Education at Filtronic in Shipley, a company originally spawned from the Department. He also became the Membership Adviser for the Yorkshire region of the IEE (now the Institute of Engineering and Technology).

These are the bare facts of his career in the University. But there are many other things to remember about Derek. His love of good order and self discipline; his respect for convention; his committed, meticulous approach to the task in hand; the care he took over students work and his pleasure in their achievements; his shrewd judgement of people and his concern for their well-being; his scorn for the pretentious and specious. But above all, we remember his determination always to do, in the end, what he felt was right.

Derek will be sadly missed by his wife Enid, daughter Andrea, son Steven and many former colleagues in the University.

Published: 13 April 2010