University head with a flair for leadership
Tuesday February 19 2008
James Lusty, who has died of cancer aged 56, was one of the few university heads in Britain to have risen to that position from a non-privileged background. Energetic, determined and compassionate, James was a natural leader, who became principal of the then University of Wales College, Newport, in 2002 and oversaw its transition to university status in 2004, becoming its first vice-chancellor. During his five years at Newport, James was in his element, able at last to implement his own ideas. He was fascinated by the labyrinthine ways of Welsh politics and learned enough Welsh to welcome guests to university events in the language. He built Newport into a stronger, more mature institution and took his turn as chair of Higher Education Wales.
James was the youngest of three sons, born in Singapore of a former
mill-worker who ended his career as a major in the Royal Artillery. Educated in state schools in Hampshire, James graduated from London University's Queen Elizabeth College in 1973 with a first in chemistry, staying on to attain his PhD in 1976. He met his wife Jackie when they were both still at school and married her when he was a postgraduate student. He taught briefly at Millfield school before being made assistant professor in inorganic chemistry at the University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1978. He moved to the National University of Singapore in 1981, took a temporary lectureship in chemistry at Keele University in 1984 and then obtained a permanent post at Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology in Aberdeen in 1985. In 1987 he was appointed head of chemistry at the then Lancashire Polytechnic in Preston and was made professor in 1991. In 1995 he became pro vice-chancellor, eventually assuming responsibility for teaching, learning and research.
James's greatest talent lay in the field of academic leadership and it
was widely regretted when the onset of illness prompted his early retirement from Newport in 2006. His outside interests included running, travel and passionate support for Southampton football club.
At the beginning of the 1990s, James and Jackie bought and restored an old house in the Vienne, France. He was at his happiest eating and drinking with family and friends in his French courtyard. I spent many wonderful hours there with him and will always treasure the vision of James wandering back from his wine cave in the latter part of an evening with yet another dusty bottle of Chinon.
Above all, he loved his family. He did absolutely everything with his wife, adored his three children and was overjoyed three days before his death with the birth of his first grandchild.
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