Obituary: Sir Gordon Beveridge

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GORDON BEVERIDGE was President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, from 1986 until 1997, and its second longest-serving Vice-Chancellor. He will be remembered for the leadership he gave to the university during some of the most turbulent years of its history.

When he arrived in 1986 there began a succession of government cuts in funding, and he at once showed a significant grasp of financial affairs. Thanks very largely to his prudent management the university overcame all these problems and, indeed, was able to spend over pounds 40m during his tenure on the enhancement of buildings and on extending the campus.

Other problems over fair employment issues and the use of the national anthem at graduation ceremonies, often the focus of media attention - combined with a background of bitter conflict, not just on its doorstep, at times within its gates - made the management of the university a most demanding and difficult job. That Queen's has survived and has emerged from these troubles even stronger is a far from modest achievement.

Beveridge was born in St Andrews in 1933 but was brought up in Inverness, where he attended Inverness Royal Academy before entering Glasgow University to study Engineering. He had a distinguished undergraduate career and completed his PhD at Edinburgh University. He spent some time in the University of Minnesota as a Harkness Fellow and was a visiting professor in the University of Texas. In 1967 he moved to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and from 1971 to 1986 was Professor of Chemical Engineering and Head of the Department of Chemical and Processing Engineering at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow.

With a wide experience of academia, administrative activities, of teaching at home and abroad and a considerable background in research and industrial consultancy, he held a number of key national level posts in professional bodies. He was President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, 1984- 85, the founding chairman of the Process Engineering Committee, and a member of the Engineering Board of the Science and Engineering Research Council.

In 1981, he was a founder member of the Engineering Council, serving 13 years first as chairman of its Standing Committee on Professional Institutions and later as chairman of its Standing Committee on the Regions and the Assembly. He was also a member of the National Economic Development Office (Nedo) Chemicals Economic Development Committee and chairman of its Petrochemical Sector Working Group.

Perhaps his most important legacy, outside the realms of higher education, was his contribution to culture and tourism in Northern Ireland. He was chairman of the Navan Fort Initiative Group whose work led to the establishment of the Navan Centre at Armagh. This offers visitors a rich understanding of the archaeology and history of Navan, the ancient seat of kings and the earliest capital of Ulster. It is now considered one of the major tourist attractions in the North.

Beveridge led Queen's through its sesquicentennial celebrations in 1995. These culminated in a special function at St James's Palace in London for the three "Queen's Colleges" (Cork, Galway and Belfast) established by Queen Victoria in Ireland in 1845, which was attended by the Queen and the then President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

Beveridge had a most dignified demeanour and, with his wife Trudy, was always an excellent ambassador for the university. He was a good man in the midst of this bewildering world of ours - brave, transparent, tender- hearted, stubborn, scrupulously independent and honourable. He had great power, and he used it for the good of others.

James Kincade

Gordon Smith Grieve Beveridge, chemical engineer and university administrator: born St Andrews, Fife 28 November 1933; Assistant Lecturer, Edinburgh University 1956-60, Lecturer 1962-67; Harkness Fellow of the Commonwealth Fund, New York, at University of Minnesota 1960-62; Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University 1962-67, Senior Lecturer, then Reader 1967-71; Professor of Chemical Engineering and Head of Department of Chemistry and Processing Engineering, Strathclyde University 1971-86; FRSE 1974; President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University, Belfast 1986-97; FRSA 1987; Kt 1994; married 1963 Trudy Bruyn (two sons, one daughter); died Belfast 28 August 1999.