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derek hurren

Derek Hurren, BA, MBA, MILT

Derek Hurren, Employability Manager in the Faculty of Engineering and formerly Operations Manager in the Keyworth Institute, died on 8 December 2012.

Having read History, Politics and Quantitative Methods at Sheffield Polytechnic, Derek graduated in 1974 and completed a PGCE at Worcester College of Education in 1975-76.  Much of his next eight years were spent teaching both in this country (Purley and Coventry) and overseas (Spain and Sudan) but he also took time out to undertake an extended round-the-world trip, in the course of which he covered some eight thousand miles, almost entirely by hitch-hiking. 

Deciding on a complete change of career, Derek entered RAF Cranwell in 1983 for Officer Training and graduated in 1984.  There followed a highly successful career in the Royal Air Force, in which he specialised in supply chain management and logistics and rose to the rank of Squadron Leader.  His postings included RAF Stafford, where he led a large multi-disciplinary team charged with introducing new business processes.  Later, as Business Manager at RAF Brampton (Headquarters Logistics Command), he was the key co-ordinator for the branch responsible for the support of all RAF ground electronic systems: radar, satellite and radio.  This comprised some 140 personnel and had an annual budget considerably in excess of £50 million.  In between these two postings, he spent over six months in the Falkland Islands, where he was Fleet Manager for some 800 vehicles and had a number of other command responsibilities. 

During his time in the RAF, Derek gained an MBA by distance learning from the University of Strathclyde and became a Member of The Institute of Logistics and Transport (MILT).  He was regarded by his peers as a very able senior manager and an excellent officer, who not only brought a high level of specialist skill and knowledge to his responsibilities but was also able, by dint of his disposition, demeanour and leadership qualities, to forge a strong sense of common purpose among the members of his team.

Despite the success he had attained, Derek chose to leave the Royal Air Force and return to civilian life at the end of the 1990s.  In 1999, he was appointed Operations Manager of the Keyworth Institute.  Based within the School of Mechanical Engineering, the Institute was a multi-disciplinary enterprise with close links with a number of other Schools, including Business and Computing, and with a strong commitment to promoting collaboration between higher education and industry.  Instinctively sympathetic to the philosophy and ethos of the Institute, Derek brought a wealth of business skills and relevant previous experience to his new responsibilities and rapidly proved himself a highly accomplished and respected manager.  His capacity for the detailed and effective organisation and implementation of projects went hand-in-hand with his ability to create and sustain fruitful and harmonious working relationships with colleagues and external organisations alike.  He did much to help raise the standing of the Institute in the eyes of major regional agencies.

Derek’s involvement was crucial to the success of a number of major initiatives within the Keyworth Institute, covering knowledge transfer, student placements and professional education, all designed to bolster the University’s engagement with industry.  One such initiative was the International Corporate Leadership Programme (ICLP).  Led by Derek, this very high-profile student placement programme enabled participating students to obtain paid work placements and industrial sponsorship, and to undertake relevant academic modules to develop their transferable skills both before and after their placements.  The ICLP came to be extremely highly regarded by both students and employers.  Later, he was to prove an influential figure in the Global Challenge programme, bringing together engineering, medical and business students at summer schools designed to expose the students to the major external challenges likely to confront them in their future careers. 

Derek was central to a major expansion of the University’s participation in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme, run nationally by the Technology Strategy Board.  KTP projects enabled universities to appoint staff to work with companies, bringing appropriate expertise to bear on the solution of specific industrial problems.  Derek and his team proved remarkably successful in propelling Leeds to a position as one of the top UK universities in terms of the number of successful KTP projects that were established.  One of his many strengths was his peerless ability to persuade often initially sceptical companies, including some of the biggest names in British industry, of the value to them of engaging in collaborative enterprises with the University, be these student placements or knowledge transfer ventures.  For two years, Derek represented the Yorkshire and Humber region on the KTP Managers’ National Forum, of which he was a popular and influential member.  He also worked on the launch of, and recruitment to, an MSc programme in manufacturing management, jointly developed by the Faculties of Engineering and Business. 

At the beginning of 2012, Derek took up a new position, as Employability Manager within the Faculty of Engineering.  Building on valuable work already undertaken by the Careers Centre, he deployed his outstanding organisational skills, as well as his excellent and extensive network of relationships with employers, to establish, together with colleagues, a faculty-wide employability programme.  It was a mark of the man that his resolve in pursuit of this goal, and his good nature, remained undimmed despite the debilitating onset of serious illness. 

Very well read, Derek numbered among his outside interests a lifelong enthusiasm for taking part in, and setting, quizzes.  Sport was another abiding interest of his, including a close association with the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket League, of which he was the secretary for fifteen years.  He managed the Cononley Junior Cricket team for six years.  A keen football supporter as well, beginning with Tottenham Hotspur, he and Harry held season tickets for Burnley Football Club from 2001 onwards and attended matches together every Saturday.  He also much enjoyed regular countryside walks with his University colleagues, on the understanding that these should invariably conclude with a visit to a well-stocked watering-hole.

Derek drew great strength and contentment from family life.  His wife, Jane, son, Harry, and daughter, Grace, survive him.