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audrey stead

Miss Audrey Stead

Members will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 7 March 2014, of Miss Audrey Stead, former senior administrator in the School of English.

The career of Audrey Stead at Leeds spanned nearly half a century.  Initially appointed in 1943 as an assistant in the University Library, she moved to a clerical appointment in the then Department of English Literature in 1949, having been – in her words – spirited away from the Library by Professor Bonamy Dobreé to become his personal assistant.  Over the course of the next four decades, the two Departments of Language and Literature were merged into the School of English, which more than trebled in size in the post-Robbins era.  This led to ever-increasing responsibilities for Miss Stead who established herself as an outstandingly capable and conscientious administrator.  Between 1959 and 1963, she temporarily stepped off the administrative ladder to serve as the School’s Research Archivist.  In this capacity, she worked very closely with Professors Grant and Jeffares in building up resources in American and Commonwealth Literature, also preparing a good deal of their research material.  Remarkably, she still found time to fulfil a number of administrative duties, supporting the Head of School and servicing several committees, including the Board of Studies and the Executive Committee.  Miss Stead was, therefore, the ideal candidate to assume a newly-established post of Administrative Assistant in 1964.  She was promoted to Senior Administrative Assistant in 1972. 

As the number of students, staff and courses in the School continued to grow significantly, so there was a correspondingly marked increase in the volume and complexity of Audrey Stead’s responsibilities.  To all of these she proved more than equal.  Successive Heads of School found her unfaltering support and all-encompassing knowledge of the workings of the School and the wider University to be invaluable.  Her portfolio included, but was not confined to, examinations; undergraduate and postgraduate admissions; student registration and progress records; the School’s accounts; the organisation of conferences and visits; and the management of a large School office.  Each of her functions she fulfilled with cheerful yet formidable efficiency, calm good sense and authoritative judgement.  In addition, however busy she was, she found time to type (faultlessly) theses and scholarly work for many members of staff over the years.  Wholly devoted to the well-being of the School and all those within it, she had a pronounced sense of pastoral responsibility.  Much of her time was given over to providing help and guidance to students, including support for the undergraduate publication, Poetry & Audience.  Writing at the time of Miss Stead’s retirement, Professor Martin Banham recalled how she had always been a friendly and good-natured presence to him and his fellow undergraduates, ever ready to lend her practical support to all kinds of activities.  Her support was not restricted to the student body; her knowledge, goodwill and invariably pertinent advice were equally likely to bring members of staff to her door.  By dint of her remarkable competence and her outstanding personal qualities, Audrey Stead was held in universal esteem.  She retired in 1991, after more than forty-eight years’ service.  After retirement, she devoted herself to her immediate family and friends, and to the immaculate upkeep of her house and garden.

Although always known within the University by her maiden name, Miss Stead married Vernon Ellis in 1979.  He pre-deceased her.

The funeral has already taken place; on the day, the flag was flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building in Audrey Stead’s memory.