Obituary: W. W. Grave

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The Independent Culture
W. W. GRAVE ("Taphos" to his friends, from the Greek for a tomb) was a very influential and significant figure in Cambridge University for a long period in the middle years of this century.

He was Registrary of the university (its principal ad0ministrative officer) from 1943 to 1952 and subsequently Censor of Fitzwilliam House from 1959 and the first Master of Fitzwilliam College from 1966 to 1971. He was the Senior Fellow of Emmanuel College, having held a fellowship for an astonishing period spanning 73 years, broken only by an enforced interval whilst he was Master of Fitzwilliam.

Walter Wyatt Grave was born in King's Lynn in 1901 and attended King Edward VII School before coming up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1920 as an Entrance Scholar. He studied Modern Languages (Spanish and Italian), captained the College Association Football XI, won college colours for Athletics and Fives, and played frequently for the Cricket XI. Sporting achievements led to presidency of the College Lions Club, and scholarly achievements to the presidency of the Mildmay Club. Having a tenor voice he was also actively involved with the Musical Society under the Presidency of L.H.G. Greenwood (Fellow and Tutor and subsequently mentor and friend).

After obtaining his BA degree with a double first in the Tripos in 1924, Grave embarked on research supported by a college studentship, and undertook a period of study in Spain on the university's Howard Scholarship. He was elected a Research Fellow of Emmanuel College in 1926, and obtained his PhD in 1927. A period of teaching and research followed up to the Second World War, with appointment as a University Lecturer and College Tutor from 1936. This included full involvement in faculty and college affairs in which he demonstrated qualities of energy, industry and attention to detail, exhibited fully in his future career. He was Senior Proctor of the university from 1938 to 1939.

After service with the Ministry of Labour and National Service from 1940 to 1943, he returned to Cambridge as the Registrary of the university. In that role he played a central part in the arrangements to accommodate the returning servicemen at the end of the war and in the many adjustments and new developments of the immediate post-war years. These included the acquisition of the Sidgwick Site, the initial planning of its future development for the Arts faculties, and new buildings for the departments of Engineering and Veterinary Science.

Plans were laid also at this time for new Chemical Laboratories in Lensfield Road. It was a period of intense activity in which Grave's co-ordinating and strategic role was important. Despite these pressures he remained fully accessible to academic colleagues, numbers of whom spoke of his great helpfulness in sorting out administrative and managerial problems. When after nine years as Registrary he decided to move to Jamaica to take on the post of Principal of the University College of the West Indies, Cambridge recognised his contribution with the honorary degree of LLD.

In the West Indies, Grave co- ordinated the move of the new university from temporary accommodation to permanent buildings. He energetically built up its academic programme and faculty staffing at all levels. He piloted the university towards achievement of independent status which followed in 1962. This work was recognised by his appointment as CMG in 1958.

In 1959 Grave returned to Cambridge as Censor of Fitzwilliam House. He immediately commenced with great energy the process of the conversion of this institution, founded in 1869, from non-collegiate institution to full college. He negotiated the constitutional change with the university, steered the design and construction of new college buildings and inaugurated an appeal to raise initial endowment.

By 1966 the first of the new buildings were in occupation and a Royal Charter was granted incorporating the new college. Grave was its first Master. As Censor and then Master he recruited the first Fellows, chaired the newly formed Governing Body which they constituted and introduced procedures for running the new college. He did not spare himself in tackling the many necessary tasks and set high standards for all who worked with him.

He had an enormous capacity for taking pains, would always seek to be thoroughly briefed (questioning relentlessly as necessary, to acquire information beforehand). He had clear objectives and pressed hard and invariably successfully to achieve them, striving to build an academic community of high quality.

At the same time, with the support of his wife, he entertained widely at all levels within the college, having an extensive store of humorous anecdotes. His whereabouts in a crowd was readily identified by the sound of his laughter. He had the capacity fully to engage colleagues, however junior, in college business, transmitting enthusiasm and leading by example.

By 1969, when the college celebrated the centenary of its foundation as a non-collegiate institution, it was achieving major successes both in academic and sporting spheres, including the Headship of the Mays that year in the inter- college rowing competition.

At the same time Grave was again active at the centre of the university. He undertook, with a small number of experienced colleagues, a review of the administrative organisation of the university, leading to the publication in 1967 of the Grave Report. This, whilst less extensive than the Franks Report at Oxford, nevertheless set a framework for greater efficiency in the faster- moving world of the late 20th century.

Proposals related to a longer- serving Vice-Chancellorship, greater delegation to the University Council and General Board, and a greater role for the academic Councils of the Schools. Implementation by the university was somewhat measured and slow, and in a number of cases it required the recommendations of a second body (the Wass Syndicate) in 1989 to carry the Grave proposals fully into effect.

Grave also undertook a number of other onerous tasks for the university, serving on the Council of the Senate and the Financial Board. He also chaired the Library Syndicate during a period of major building extension at the University Library.

After retirement in 1971 he remained in Cambridge as an Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College and a Life Fellow of Emmanuel College. He completed an encyclopaedic history of Fitzwilliam College and its precursor Fitzwilliam House (Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1869-1969, 1983). This incorporated much source material on the development of higher education over the previous 100 years, particularly as it involved less privileged students.

Walter Wyatt Grave, university administrator: born King's Lynn, Norfolk 16 October 1901; Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge 1926-66, 1972-99, Tutor 1936-40; University Lecturer in Spanish, Cambridge University 1936-40, Registrary 1940-52; Principal, University College of the West Indies, Jamaica 1953- 58; Censor, Fitz-william House, Cambridge 1943-52, Master, Fitzwilliam College 1966-71; married 1932 Kathleen Macpherson (two daughters); died Shelford, Cambridgeshire 20 May 1999.