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MALCOLM LACKIE MacKENZIE

Senior lecturer in education Born: July 5, 1938; Died: February 28, 2014

MALCOLM Lackie MacKenzie, who has died aged 75, was a much-loved lecturer at the University of Glasgow for more than 30 years. He was born in Clydebank in 1938, where his father worked for the Singer company. He often said that, although his parents were not well off, they gave him plenty of "cultural capital". By that he meant that he was encouraged to read from an early age and soon became a regular at Clydebank public library.

He was also taken to the cinema and to musical and dramatic performances. The opportunity to hear visiting speakers at the town hall stimulated a lifelong interest in politics. At Clydebank High School he did well academically and was school captain in session 1955-56.

He took an arts degree at Glasgow University, graduating with honours in English. Just as important as his studies was his involvement in union debates, where he was a contemporary of two people who became leaders of political parties - John Smith (Labour) and Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat). Another contemporary was Donald Dewar, later First Minister of Scotland, with whom he won the prestigious Observer Mace debating competition in 1963.

Mr Mackenzie could easily have gone into national politics himself. He became a prominent figure in the Scottish Conservatives, at one time serving as vice-chairman of the Scottish Tory Reform Group and writing pamphlets about the party's strategic direction.

However, he became disenchanted with the right in the late 1980s and discontinued his membership. His contacts with senior political figures nonetheless gave him a good fund of stories and, with little prompting, he could be encouraged to recount his meeting with Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, his exchange of pleasantries with Willie Whitelaw and the time he bought Kenneth Clarke a pint.

His decision not to seek election to parliament meant Scottish education gained a teacher of quite remarkable talents. He trained at Jordanhill and started his teaching career at Bearsden Academy.

He also studied part-time for a Master of Education degree and was soon appointed as a lecturer at Jordanhill College in 1964. There he worked under Lawrence Stenhouse, a leading figure in curriculum reform. The opportunity arose to move to the Department of Education at Glasgow University in 1967, where he remained for the rest of his career.

He was an outstanding teacher who could hold the attention of large classes with his erudition, wit and incisive delivery.

He could explain complex ideas in an accessible form and show their relevance to educational policy and practice. His presentational skills meant he was in demand in the media. His face became familiar on television and for a time he hosted a lively phone-in programme on education on Radio Clyde.

His particular interest was educational management and he was one of the founder members of the British Educational Management and Administration Society. His expertise in this field was recognised when he was invited to give a lecture tour in Australia. Later he co-edited a book entitled The Management of Educational Policy: Scottish Perspectives.

His main contribution, however, was in preparing successive cohorts of students to occupy senior positions within Scottish education - as head teachers, inspectors, administrators and lecturers.

His skill as a supervisor of research theses was legendary. Among the many distinguished people who have said how much they owe to his input are Sir David Bell, formerly permanent Secretary at the Department of Education in London (now vice-chancellor of Reading University) and Frank Pignatelli, former director of education for Strathclyde.

The latter, in a tribute to mark Malcolm MacKenzie's retiral in 2003, described his contribution as inspirational, erudite, challenging, iconoclastic - and brim full of humour and mischief. He added: "My own educational philosophy, my personal value system and my professional skills and attitudes have been significantly shaped through my relationship with Malcolm."

Former students, who held him in such high regard, often asked why he had never been appointed a professor. He was interviewed for two chairs (at Glasgow and the Open University) but other candidates were preferred. One reason was he was simply unlucky with timing.

He was considered at a period when research income and output were becoming more highly valued than good teaching. Although he had served on national committees and written many articles aimed at practitioners, what mattered most were grants and publications in 'heavyweight' academic journals.

Another reason was more personal. In his forties, he went through a difficult phase in his life. There were health issues and both his parents died within a few months. It took him time to recover but he showed courage in facing adversity and got his life back on track.

He then set himself the modest, but entirely honourable task, of completing his career with dignity. Towards the end of his career, he made an important contribution to the merger of St Andrew's College with the university. The denominational question made that process particularly fraught and he brought skills of tact and diplomacy to the many sensitive issues which arose.

In retirement, he indulged his passion for Hollywood films of the 1940s and 50s, revisited the Angus countryside which he had enjoyed as a boy, and coped philosophically with the variable fortunes of Brechin City football club.

Right to the end he was a mainstay of the Educational Colloquium, a forum for educational debate started by the late Professor Stanley Nisbet. As his health declined, he was given great support by two former students, Christine Wicklow and Dr John Cavanagh. He will be remembered for his formidable insight, wonderful company and fine generosity of spirit.

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