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Chris Clegg

Sally Wheeler

Colleagues will be sorry to hear of the death of Mrs Sally Wheeler, former Director of Human Resources, after a period of illness.

Sally was educated in Cape Town and came to the UK in 1953, on a Northern Rhodesian Government Scholarship, to study at Bristol University. She obtained first-class honours in Psychology and Philosophy in 1956 and then spent an extensive period living overseas once more. Although her career was always focused upon academia her roles were varied, and included appointments as a Librarian in the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute for Social Research (the first local anthropological research facility in Africa); as a Lecturer in Social Studies at the University of Malawi, where she launched an Adult Studies programme; and as a consultant in higher education and adult education.

Family matters brought Sally back to the UK in 1970. Initially, she worked as a secondary school teacher, then as a correspondence and class tutor for the Open University, before joining the University in 1975 as an Administration Assistant in the Registry.

‘Admin Assistant’ was a title which, in those days, could cover a very wide variety of roles and responsibilities, and from the beginning Sally relished the challenges that such variety could present. Her abilities and determination were quickly recognised, and she was promoted to Assistant, and subsequently Senior Assistant, Registrar. Her portfolio included servicing a number of central committees, including in particular the Council, the University’s governing body. She also took on many ad hoc projects and responsibilities – often those for which few others might have volunteered – in which endeavours her combination of enthusiasm for learning new skills, her ferociously sharp eye for detail, and her determination always to beat the odds stood her in very good stead.

Sally worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote efficiency, drawing on her own wide knowledge and experience and that of her contacts within the UK sector and overseas.  Always in demand by senior colleagues for her clarity of thinking and her organisational abilities, she was a shrewd judge of both character and situation, with the capacity to weigh up others’ abilities, and to see ambiguities emerging before they arrived on most people’s agenda.

Sally became Director of Public Relations in 1991, bringing together a number of previously disparate functions. During her years in the Registry she also amassed an impressive body of expertise on University employment law and practice, which came to the fore when she was appointed Director of Human Resources in 1992 – in which role she was responsible, amongst many other matters, for instigating the introduction of the Staff Counselling Service; for introducing a Code of Practice on Equal Opportunities; and for incorporating the new Model Statute into the University’s governance.

Sally made an enormous contribution to University life. She applied her great energy and acuity to solving administrative problems and to ensuring the smooth running of the institution, and took on additional roles, such as representing the University for many years on the Board of Governors of Bradford Girls’ Grammar School. She will be remembered by her colleagues with huge respect, and with fondness – for her loyalty, her uncompromising commitment, and her ready (and sometimes wicked) sense of humour.

A memorial for Sally will take place at 3pm on Friday 20 July 2018 at Weetwood Hall Hotel. If you would like to attend, please email Rachel Gregson.   As a mark of the University’s esteem, the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half-mast on the day service.