Obituary: Professor Sir David Watson

ProfessorSirDavidWatsonIt is with great sadness that we report the death of a former long-serving Board member of the Brighton & Hove Philharmonic Society, Professor Sir David Watson (1949-2015) who passed away in February after a short illness.


Sir David read History at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a Choral Exhibitioner and Open Scholar, graduating with first class honours. His academic interests were in the history of ideas and in higher education policy and he became one of the UK’s leading higher education academics.

Sir David was a member of the Dearing review of higher education in the 1990s, and was knighted in 1998 for services to higher education.

Sir David was Director of Brighton Polytechnic (1990-1992) and Vice Chancellor of its successor, the University of Brighton (1992-2005). The University of Brighton has announced that a new academic building and library on its Circus Street site will be named after Sir David. He was Professor of Higher Education Management at the Institute of Education, University of London (2005-2010) and became the principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford, in 2010.

A keen musician and talented pianist, he was active in the musical and cultural life of the city of Brighton, serving on the Boards of the Brighton Festival Society (1999-2005), Brighton Dome (2002-2005) and our own Brighton & Hove Philharmonic Society (1996-2003, having been co-opted onto the Board in 1994). Jackie Lythell, OBE, Chair of BHPS at the time writes: “Sir David was an invaluable, wise member of the Board. The Society benefitted greatly from his knowledge of music and outstanding intellect. On a personal level, David’s support to me as Chair was always both generous and thoughtful.” He also found time to be an occasional guest conductor with the Brighton Youth Orchestra and leader of the Universities Association of Lifelong Learning Jazz band.

Sir David is survived by his wife Betty Pinto Skolnick, his son Michael and daughter Sarah, and his granddaughter Lila. A celebration of his life and work will take place in Oxford in June.

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