SOUE News Issue 8


Rodney H Parsons, 1916-2009

Those in the Department from 1963 to the early 80s will certainly remember Rodney Parsons, the Department's first professional Administrator. The department had of course been "administered" before that, but until the Thom Building was completed in 1962, it had been very small, and the job was done part-time by one of the academics (e.g. Joe Todd in the 1950s). Rodney had been in the Royal Artillery throughout World War II, including Dunkirk, and later had a spell with the Arab Legion, of which he had many memories. His last military post had been as Officer Commanding the University Officer Training Corps, then based in Manor Road. On retirement from the Army, with the rank of Lt-Colonel, he joined the department as administrator in 1963, when Douglas Holder was the recently appointed Head of Department. The two complemented each other very well, and it is remembered that the department was a happy place under their joint leadership. He had a lively sense of humour, a very necessary quality for the job. He had also done a degree in Physics at Lincoln at some stage, which perhaps helped him to understand academics in general on the one hand, and engineers in particular on the other. There was quite a network of ex-service administrators and bursars in the Oxford of those days, which he must have found helpful.

The secretaries of the General Office were particularly fond of him, and if he was known for appointing those whose personalities and appearance were attractive, well, the males in the Department were hardly going to complain about that, and in most cases there was no doubt at all about the girls' competence to do the job.

One of his first tasks was to ensure that the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to open the Thom Building, in November 1963, went off without a hitch. His military experience ensured that indeed it did!

He retired in 1984, by which time the Thom Building had changed from its rather sparse occupation of the early days, to bursting at the seams, and the Holder Building had been erected to relieve it a bit.

His wife Carol pre-deceased him, and Rodney moved from Chesterton, near Bicester, to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, near Wallingford. He was devoted to his children and grandchildren, and rejoiced in their company. He died aged 93, on 16 June, having been very sprightly and alert right to the end. Indeed he had been shopping at Waitrose, and planting beans in his garden, on that very day. At a commemoration service for his life held in the village church on 15 July, his grandchildren devised a splendid collective tribute to him.

Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid, who died last May aged 78, read engineering at Trinity 1949-52, and went into the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning business, initially with GN Haden Ltd. In 1970 he founded his own firm, Andrew Reid and Partners, which specialised in "difficult" installations, often ones that had defeated their original designers. Some of his successes include the Guildhall School of Music, the Barbican Arts Centre, and more recently the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, whose proper and reliable climate control is obviously vital for the preservation of paintings. His firm continues after his retirement, and can be read about on its website

Andrew was also, from his youth, a keen sailor, and cruised widely.

A fuller obituary was in the Guardian on 27 May, drawn to our attention by Keith Cousins.

John C Thompson OBE

John Thompson, who died in September 2007, read engineering at New College from 1946 to 1948, having earlier done a "crash" services radio course at the Clarendon in 1941-2. In between he served as a Lt-Commander in the RNVR, specialising in radar, and receiving a Mention in Despatches.

After graduation he worked first in Joseph Lucas, and then in the Reed Paper Group, before joining a tungsten carbide manufacturing company in 1961, of which he became a Director. In 1976 he founded his own company to carry out the process of hot isostatic pressing, the use of very high pressure inert gas, and high temperatures, to make metal or ceramic components more dense, remove voids etc.

He retired in 1988 when his firm was taken over, but continued to work as a Business Counsellor. He lived in Kirtlington, a few miles north of Oxford, and often came to SOUE meetings. He died while on holiday in Cornwall.

<<   Previous article Contents Next article   >>