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denis hutchinson

Denis Hutchinson, MA

Colleagues and friends will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 21st March 2012, of Denis Hutchinson, a Life Fellow of the University, and former Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing.  The following tribute to Denis has been written by Professor Tony Wren and Dr Prasad Chatterjee:

"Denis, the second son of a deputy head teacher, was born on 2nd September 1931 in Sunderland. His parents were Walter and Margaret Hutchinson. Even as a boy of 8 Denis showed a responsible side to his character during evacuation in Appleton Wiske, North Yorkshire, taking charge of his younger sister Margaret, then aged 5, and calmly guided her throughout a difficult period.

Denis graduated in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh in 1954.  Following National Service in the RAF, and spells at ICI in Billingham and as a lecturer at Sunderland Technical College, Denis was appointed to a lectureship in the then Electronic Computing Laboratory of the University of Leeds in 1964.

Promoted to a Senior Lectureship in 1969, Denis took on the responsibilities of a deputy head of the Department of Computer Studies from 1972, and through the next eleven difficult years Denis’s strength and leadership helped the department to grow and flourish. He was the driving force behind the inauguration in Leeds of the country’s first specialist undergraduate degree in Computing, and he oversaw the establishment of several other degree schemes, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Denis was elected Head of Department in 1983, a position he held for the next six years, and oversaw the transition of the Department to a School of three divisions, each headed by a professor. Following this period Denis remained as a valuable senior advisor in the School and more widely in the University.

Denis’s own research interests lay in the field of numerical analysis, specifically in the solution of differential equations and in optimisation.  He supervised several research students and many project students in taught MSc courses.  Although his heavy administrative duties and his teaching forced his own research into the background in later years, he continued to publish into the 1990’s.

Denis was a skilful politician, with a prodigious memory for background information and detail.  He cared passionately for the welfare of students and staff, and there are many who benefited from his generous support.  While serving two terms of office as President of the AUT, Denis pioneered some democratic changes to promote overall fairness to all, and continued to support the AUT members even after retirement. He was active in the British Computer Society, particularly in its education activities, and in the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.  He also held membership of the University of Leeds Senate, Council and Court. 

Denis retired in 1996, after which he maintained an easy relationship with the School while indulging in his own leisure interests of angling, bird watching, sailing and bridge.  At the age of 75, Denis fulfilled the lifetime ambition of completing the Great North Run.  Latterly hip problems restricted his movement, although a note from him at Christmas 2011 said that despite his walking with two sticks he was still able to watch Sunderland’s home matches."

Denis’s wife Joyce died in 1984.  He is survived by his children Jane, David and Ruth, his brothers Malcolm and Thomas, and sister Margaret.

The funeral service will be held at 2.00pm on Monday 2nd April 2012, at St Chad’s Church, Otley Road, Far Headingley, Leeds LS16 5JT, and afterwards at Weetwood Hall, to which everyone is invited to celebrate Denis’s life. There are to be family flowers only: any donations in aid of charities close to Denis’s heart will be gratefully received.  As a mark of the University’s esteem, the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral.