Obituary: Sir Richard Norman

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The Independent Online
Richard Oswald Chandler Norman, chemist: born 27 April 1932; Fellow and Tutor, Merton College, Oxford 1958-65 (Hon Fellow 1988); University Lecturer in Chemistry, Oxford University 1958- 65; Professor of Chemistry, York University 1965-87; seconded as Chief Scientific Adviser, MoD 1983-1988; Kt 1987; Rector, Exeter College, Oxford 1987-93; Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Energy 1988-1993; books include Principles of Organic Synthesis 1968, Modern Organic Chemistry (with DJ Waddington) 1972; married 1982 Jennifer Tope; died Oxford 6 June 1993.

ALTHOUGH the last five years have not been easy ones for universities, the Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford, have counted themselves fortunate in their Rector, Richard Norman, writes W. B. Steward.

The college has been firmly led to strategic decisions, and difficulties squarely faced; those who have had to implement decisions have always had the Rector's strong support. Routine committee work, though, has been severely pruned: college officers soon learnt that if their meetings lasted much beyond the hour then they had clearly failed to produce a sensible agenda. The brevity of the meetings of Exeter's governing body became legendary; few chairmen have carried off with such aplomb 'too complex a question for discussion in so large a forum' and 'too trivial for us to discuss here'.

But with this brisk approach to college business went a deep concern for the members of the college, their academic progress, their sporting successes, and their plays and concerts. With characteristic enthusiasm, when he saw that the college must develop a vigorous graduate school, Norman himself served as tutor for graduates. As such, he delighted in selecting as wide a range of graduate students as he could, and in pressing on his colleagues not only the need for graduate facilities but also the special needs of individuals.

It is not, of course, only for his administrative gifts that a Head of House is valued. All members of the college will remember with pleasure and affection the generous hospitality dispensed in the Lodgings by Dick and Jenny. The Rector's Garden has been entirely remade, a source of great joy and pride to them both. At the Rector's insistence the college has begun to turn the Margary Quadrangle into the quiet green space originally envisaged by its architects, Lionel Brett and Francis Pollen, in the 1960s; it is sad that he has not lived to see the transformation.

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