The death of Richard D'Aeth brings to a close a significant era in English teacher education. Appointed in 1958 by the fledgling Exeter University to be its first full Professor of Education and head of the newly established Department of Education, D'Aeth ruled with a mixture of charm and iron will over his vibrant fiefdom for nearly 20 years, until the merger with St Luke's College to form the School of Education in 1978.
Although an ascetic and slightly forbidding figure in his professional demeanour, with a devastating sharp tongue when he felt the need arose, Dick D'Aeth was a true gentleman in his personal interactions and kindness to newly appointed staff. He had a remarkable eye for identifying promising young talent and giving them their heads as teacher educators to develop their individual courses in their own manner.
This was what made Exeter such a stimulating and exciting place to train as a secondary school teacher in the 1960s and 1970s. Luminaries such as Clive Carré, Paddy Creber, Tony Edwards, Geoff Fox, Peter Preece, Dick Tahta and a brash young Ted Wragg were given free rein to light the fires of enthusiasm for teaching under their young charges before going on themselves to leadership positions elsewhere or remaining to consolidate their reputations at Thornlea and St Luke's.
After playing a highly influential part in the appointment of Wragg, his most controversial protégé, to the newly formed University School of Education, D'Aeth took up the prestigious post of Master of Hughes College, Cambridge, where he served for six years before retiring to Devon in 1984 and outliving many of those whom he had appointed. As a guiding mentor, he will be remembered with respect and affection by all who worked under his benign influence.
Educated at Bedford School, he was a scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he gained a first class honours degree in Natural Science and went on to complete his PhD in 1939, after two years on a Commonwealth Fellowship at Harvard. Following a period in the RAF during the Second World War, he was appointed one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, then took up an appointment as Professor of Education at the University of the West Indies, before returning to the UK in 1958.
Richard D'Aeth, educationist: born Vancouver, British Columbia 3 June 1912; Master, Gresham's School 1938-40; HM Inspector of Schools 1946-52; Professor of Education, University College of the West Indies 1952-58; Professor of Education, Exeter University 1958-77; President, Hughes Hall, Cambridge 1978-84; married 1943 Pamela Straker (two daughters); died Paignton, Devon 19 February 2008.