I HAD the privilege of working with Jim Trainer, who has died aged 80, for 30 years, first as my head of department, and later as a colleague and friend. He was appointed in 1967 to take charge of the newly-created department of German at Stirling University. The university had just been established as one of the "new universities", boasting its own version of an innovative academic structure, with a semester system and a flexible degree programme. Jim had come from St Andrews, an archetypal traditional Scottish university, but he adapted well to the progressive atmosphere and challenging conditions of a younger institution.
Notably he set about expanding and broadening the departmental staff establishment and academic profile. By 1974, the department had 11 members of staff, including himself as professor and two senior lecturers and was one of the largest departments of German in the UK. It had attracted talented academics from various universities in the UK, North America and New Zealand.
When he moved to concentrate on administration at the university, he left a well-established legacy of efficient departmental management. In many ways the department was one of the most successful and effectively organised in the university, and it performed well in the various research and teaching assessment exercises in the 1980s and 90s. Much of the responsibility for its success lay in the solid leadership which he had given it in the early years of its development.
Jim made his way rapidly up through the hierarchy of the university administration, becoming deputy principal under three successive principals, and for a time acting principal. This was a crucial time in the university's history following the problems it experienced in the aftermath of the Queen's visit in 1972 and the financial cuts it suffered in 1981.
During this period of recovery and eventual expansion, he was a key figure in the university administration. He eventually returned to the department in the early 1990s, to teach and resume his research. He said his decision to leave the administration and rejoin the department was the best he had ever made. Professionally and individually, he was a very fair-minded man, supportive of his staff, generous in disbursing departmental funds for travel to Germany, and encouraging in one's efforts to publish.
When he returned to the department I found him to be a generous and reliable senior friend to whom I could turn for advice and encouragement. A tall man, he had an imposing and dignified presence, and at times could be somewhat formal and reserved in manner. But he thereby earned the respect of students, who regarded it as a privilege to be taught by him.
In 1984, he experienced his own personal tragedy when his wife Barbara, a vivacious German lady, much loved in the university community, lost her battle against cancer. In her later years Barbara had bravely studied as a mature student for a degree in psychology. I was made aware of the difficulties this posed for her when Jim, then deputy principal, remarked that when he got home after a lengthy meeting, he would be typing up an essay for her. He had met Barbara in Berlin when he was a student there in the 1950s. He was there when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. In 1989, the morning after it fell, he came into my room, visibly moved at the news. For him it was a bitter-sweet moment. Barbara had missed it by five years.
His professional tragedy followed later in 2003 with the sudden decision by the university administration to remove degree programmes in German, and so to bring about the closure of the department which he had established.
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