Born: September 12, 1945; Died: September 30, 2012.
Professor Rob Ball, who has died aged 67, was one of the longest serving employees of Stirling University, with more than 40 years' service. He was professor of public service management, with extensive practical experience of the public sector and particular interest in local government, higher education and the health service.
Having studied physics at Balliol College, Oxford he went on to take an MSc at Birmingham University. Early in his career he worked in management services for the Milk Marketing Board and, in 1969, he became a planning officer at Stirling University.
At Stirling he registered for a PhD and soon changed career to become a lecturer in management science.
More recently he held senior management posts – three years as head of department and six years as dean of the faculty of management. He was a member of the University Court and Academic Council.
Prof Ball served as a local government councillor for more than 20 years, taking on the different roles of convenor of transport, planning, finance, policy, education and social and economic development committees.
He was an advisor to the Education Committee of the Scottish Parliament and served as a consultant to the Scottish Executive.
He was also adjunct professor at the Institute for Public Sector Management and Policy at Flinders University in South Australia. In 2007 he was a visiting professor at Flinders and he spent some time as a visiting research fellow at the Public Policy Unit at Oxford University.
Prof Ball published in a broad range of top public management journals and secured extensive research funding. He was coordinator of the Public Sector Management Research Group.
His most recent projects included critical evaluations of the managerial and economic aspects of public private partnerships (PPPs) with Professor Dave King, which received international interest.
He recently completed a comparative study of PPPs in the UK and Australia, which identified a number of similarities but also a number of striking differences between the two countries.
A Knowledge Transfer Partnership-funded study, with Dr Tom Forbes, on the development of community health partnerships in central Scotland led to important insights into partnership evaluation and the management of transformational change in the Scottish health service.
His work with Prof King on developing needs-based models for funding the Scottish Government led to important publications and this work is of increasing significance given the dissatisfaction with the Barnett formula.
Prof Ball was the founding director of Stirling's part-time MBA in public service management which, in its different formats, has more than 100 graduates – all of whom are now practising managers in the Scottish public services.
He was also the founding director of the Muscat College BA programme in Oman. At undergraduate level, he was coordinator of the undergraduate unit management and the environment – which has a significant public policy component. He also contributed to all the other public management modules.
His many friends, colleagues and students share an extensive collection of fond memories of him as alternately a rigorous academic, an effective manager and an entertaining friend. Often he combined all these roles.
As a manager Prof Ball will be remembered as a respected leader who was highly supportive of his staff. The speeches he delivered when a member of staff left or retired are legendary. They were fine tributes but he always found an excuse to include his famous jokes about Copernicus, Einstein, and Mao Tse Tung.
He often said his most enjoyable time was when he was studying for his PhD. He passed on this enthusiasm to his PhD students, providing them with strong academic guidance and moral support.
He was particularly proud to see his son Christopher recently embark upon a PhD. He enjoyed all aspects of his job and worked throughout his illness, continuing to meet his PhD students on a weekly basis.
Prof Ball was very active outside work, with interests ranging from football to opera. He was also an active member of the Labour Party and served as a councillor for many years, chairing Stirling Council's planning committee.
Especially keen on sport, Prof Ball was an enthusiastic runner, regularly entering 10Ks and half marathons. He was a lifelong supporter of his home football team, Northampton Town, and a season-ticket holder at Falkirk FC. During the summer he was also an avid follower of cricket – Northamptonshire, of course.
Whatever he did, he was committed and enthusiastic, an inspiration to us all. He was a friend and a colleague for more than 25 years and died after a few months of illness.
He is survived by his wife Moira and son Christopher.
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