Dick Tizard

Reforming Senior Tutor at Churchill College, Cambridge
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Described by a former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University as Cambridge's most significant Senior Tutor of the post-war years, Dick Tizard promoted "access" long before the term was coined.

In the 1960s, Tizard transformed Churchill College's admissions policy by scouting for talent in the state sector. He was a driving force behind the college's admission of women, with Churchill the first Cambridge college to make that decision. Tizard was a liberal, taking the reforming side on such issues as student representation on college committees. He handled the educational cultural revolution of the Sixties well.

Yet he was a type of don that scarcely exists any more: one wholly devoted to his college, who never held a post in a university department. He was completely committed to college teaching, to the pastoral side of tutoring, and to academic governance; and he was an engineer without a lab. His pedagogy belonged to an era before intense specialisation, for he reckoned that a competent teacher should be able to cover the whole of Part I of the Engineering course. After retiring from formal teaching, Tizard continued supervising students, and was considered by a recent former student as "the best supervisor I ever had".

Tizard's research work lay behind him, in industry, when he arrived at Cambridge in 1960, chosen by Sir John Cockcroft as a founder Fellow of a new science-based college. He had no previous Cambridge experience, having graduated from Oxford University in 1939 with a First in Engineering Science. The son of one of Britain's most eminent scientist-administrators, Sir Henry Tizard, whose championing of radar helped win the Battle of Britain, and godson of Winston Churchill's Dr Strangelove, Frederick Lindemann, Dick Tizard was a living link between Churchill's "Boffins' War" and Churchill's college, founded in the era of Harold Wilson's "white heat of the technological revolution".

As a young man in wartime he had worked in aerial defence research, where he designed and developed a gyroscopic gun-sight for use on anti- aircraft guns. He was also involved in a number of other air-defence schemes, including the use of kites to bring down enemy fighters. After the Second World War he worked with Barnes Wallis, of bouncing-bomb fame (and The Dam Busters was his favourite film).

At Churchill College, Tizard's industrial experience helped build bridges between academic and practical engineering. He insisted that every undergraduate engineer take a year out in industry before coming up.

If college was his life, sailing was his passion. Until the day he died his most cherished memories, and those to which he constantly returned, were of the sea and his voyages. A keen yachtsman from an early age, he competed in Oxford v Cambridge sailing matches while at Oxford. At Cambridge in the Sixties and Seventies, he was successively Senior Treasurer, Commodore, then President of Cambridge University Cruising Club.

The young Tizard featured in the letters of Arthur Ransome, as an original Swallow or Amazon. The older Tizard was mentor to students and Fellows of Churchill alike. All recognised in him one of the most profound influences in shaping Winston Churchill's national memorial college in its early years.

Mark Goldie

Comments