Professor Stuart MacDonald OBE,

artist, educationalist and Lighthouse keeper.

Born: September 8, 1948

Died: June 9, 2016

Professor Stuart MacDonald, who has died aged 67, was a distinguished arts educationalist and founding director of the Lighthouse, Scotland’s national centre for architecture and design.

One of the most influential and respected figures in his field, he dedicated his life to the arts, particularly to those areas of expertise he loved so much, architecture and design. More than that, however, he applied his talents to the development, improvement and promotion of the nation’s creative industries.

He will be remembered for much but not least for his stewardship of the Lighthouse. Created as a permanent legacy of Glasgow’s status as UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999, it was sited within the former offices of the Glasgow Herald in Mitchell Street. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building was stunningly converted and for the next 10 years it served as a beacon of light for design, architecture and the creative industries in Scotland.

From its launch in 1999 till he relinquished his position in 2006, Stuart MacDonald was the Lighthouse keeper, a man whose vision, flair, imagination and influential leadership allowed the venture to flourish.

The Lighthouse Trust went into administration in 2009 but by then he had moved on, returning in 2006 to his native East Coast to take up the post of Head of Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He retired three years later and became Emeritus Professor of Creative Industries at Robert Gordon University.

Stuart MacDonald was born in Dundee in 1948. Educated at the city’s Morgan Academy, he excelled at art so it was no great surprise that he went on to study at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen in 1966, gaining a Diploma in Fine Art in 1970.

In 1972 he qualified from Aberdeen College of Education as a secondary teacher and embarked upon a career in education. Then, in the late 1980s, he enrolled in the Open University, graduating in 1989 with an Advanced Diploma in Education Management.

By this time Stuart MacDonald had moved out of the classroom and, with his wife Catherine and their young family, headed to the West of Scotland to become an Advisor in Art and Design at the old Strathclyde Region. In 1991 he was promoted to the post of Senior Advisor, Educational Development Service.

Then in 1996 Glasgow launched a sustained city-wide Festival of Architecture and Design, the largest ever of its kind and covering a four-year period. MacDonald was appointed to the key role of Education Director to the festival which culminated in 1999 with Glasgow’s reign as UK City of Architecture and Design. During the period he was responsible for the £1m budget for a programme of education, outreach and community events.

By then he was deeply involved in the plans and preparations for the Lighthouse centre which he regarded as a lasting reminder of what was achieved by the city during the Festival of Art and Design. As its founder, MacDonald was appointed Executive Director, guiding the centre to great success and international respect until he moved back to the North East in 2006. The same year his contribution to art and design was formally recognised with an OBE for services to the arts.

There was a certain symmetry to his next appointment, returning as Head of Gray’s School of Art, his old alma mater, for three years. There, as was the case wherever he worked, Stuart MacDonald was a talented, dedicated and diligent teacher and mentor.

Retiring as Head in 2009, he maintained a close connection with the school as its Emeritus Professor and Associate Researcher of Creative Industries.

Professor MacDonald also held a wide range of professional posts. He was a visiting professor of architecture at Strathclyde University and a consultant to a number of UK and European organisations in the creative industry sector.

Last year he joined the board of WASPS, the charity which provides studios to support artists and arts organisations. Indeed, it was after a board meeting in Glasgow that he collapsed and died.

Professor MacDonald was also a successful writer, the author of a number of acclaimed books on art and design. He was, too, a talented and passionate artist whose paintings have been exhibited in galleries throughout Scotland. Lately he had been spending a great deal of his valuable time painting.

At the time of his death, he and his wife, who first met while they were both studying at Gray’s School of Art, were planning to split their lives between the family home in Glasgow and their new house and painting studio in France.

Professor Stuart MacDonald is survived by his wife Catherine, children Duncan, Jamie and Jennifer, grandchildren James and Calum, his mother Nessie and his sister Lynda.

Allan Laing