Obituary: Sir Arthur Vick

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The Independent Culture
IN 1964 Arthur Vick became President and Vice-Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast. During the following ten years he demonstrated his consummate administrative skills, guiding the university during a period of terrorism and political unrest which started in 1968.

Queen's University had been one of the three non-sectarian university colleges of the University of Ireland formed in 1845, and it remained non-sectarian, welcoming students from across the religious divide. It says much for Vick's quiet and unassuming administration that the university remained an oasis of peace and sanity, where students from across the divide met and studied, debated and socialised together. Many formed lasting relationships, which in the long term has greatly helped the return of peace and sanity to the province.

As the Troubles developed, Belfast became a virtual cultural wilderness, until with the strong support and initiative of Vick, the annual Queen's University Arts Festival was developed. This event, which had been set up on a smaller scale the year before his appointment, was expanded to offer both the students and the general public a wide range of cultural events which were (and continue to be) very well supported.

Vick was also keen on developing closer relationships between the university and industry, both world-wide and in particular in Northern Ireland. He supported the creation of industrial advisory units to provide consultancy services, design and development and continuing education courses attuned to industrial need. He supported the development of a Low Cost Automation Centre and the Wolfson Signal Processing Centre, which after his retirement, together with the existing Materials Testing Station, formed the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen's.

Vick was born in 1911, and educated at the Waverley Grammar School, Birmingham, and Birmingham University, where he obtained a physics degree and a PhD in solid state physics. From 1936 to 1944 he was an Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer in Physics at University College London. During the Second World War he was transferred to the Ministry of Supply, becoming an Assistant Director of Research. This gave him administrative experience which stood him in good stead.

After the war Vick returned to the academic world as a Lecturer, and later Senior Lecturer, in Physics at Manchester University. In 1950 he was appointed Professor of Physics in the University College of North Staffordshire (later to become Keele University). There his administrative skills were in demand as he served as Vice-Principal and Acting Principal from 1950 to 1954. He was also involved in the Institute of Physics, holding various positions including Vice-President and Honorary Secretary.

In 1959 Vick moved back into scientific administration, firstly as the Deputy Director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) at Harwell, and then as its Director from 1960 to 1964. From 1964 until he returned to the academic world in 1966 he was Member for Research of the UKAEA, with responsibility for the Harwell, Culham and Wantage Laboratories. He continued to serve on several important committees, including as member of the Advisory Council on Research and Development of the Ministry of Power (1960-63) and the University Grants Committee (1959-66), as well as being President of the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education from 1964 to 1972.

Vick was knighted in 1973 for his services to higher education in Northern Ireland. He will be remembered by many in Queen's University as a very friendly, if rather shy, man, who made a most significant contribution to the development of the university in difficult times.

Vick retired to live at Warwick. He became very involved in Warwick University, serving as Chairman of Council (1977-80) and Pro-Chancellor from 1977 to 1992. He helped develop its entrepreneurial culture, aimed to protect the university from the never-ending so-called "efficiency gains", a euphemism for cuts.

Francis Arthur Vick, physicist and university administrator: born 5 June 1911; Assistant Lecturer in Physics, University College, London 1936-39, Lecturer 1939-44; Lecturer in Physics, Manchester University 1944-47, Senior Lecturer 1947-50; OBE 1945; Professor of Physics, University College of North Staffordshire 1950-59, Vice-Principal 1950-54, Acting Principal 1952-53; Deputy Director, AERE, Harwell 1959-60, Director 1960-64; Director of Research Group, UKAEA 1961-64, Member for Research 1964-66; President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University, Belfast 1966-76; Kt 1973; Pro- Chancellor, Warwick University 1977-92; married 1943 Elizabeth Story (died 1989; one daughter); died Warwick 2 September 1998.