We have learned, with great sadness, of the death of Emeritus Professor Margaret Mathieson. As graduate, member of staff and benefactor, Margaret dedicated much of her life to shaping the University of Leicester.
Born in 1932, Margaret came to Leicester as an undergraduate in the 1950s, studying for an English Degree and living in spartan accommodation on campus in part of a former hospital. She was taught by Arthur Humphries, Colin Horn and Monica Jones. Her initial ambition was to join the Royal Navy.
After graduating, she was awarded a research scholarship to undertake an MA at the University of London, researching the political novels of Joseph Conrad. Her supervisor was Geoffrey Bantock, later a Professor in the School of Education at Leicester. Margaret taught English for two years at what was then the Collegiate Girls’ Grammar School before accompanying her husband to Philadelphia for two years where she taught English at Temple University.
She then spent a further two years’ teaching at St Paul's School, Leicester, before joining the School of Education to work with Professor Bantock on preparing graduates for teaching English in secondary schools. During her long career at Leicester, she ran one of the Postgraduate Certificate sections before becoming Deputy Director of the School of Education in 1985. Her appointment as Director followed six years later.
She led the School at a very challenging time when teacher education, and the PGCE in particular, was becoming more school-centred as a result of more central Government direction of how teachers should be trained. Fortunately, Margaret had contributed to the development of strong school-University partnerships in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, so that the transition at Leicester was smoother than for many other institutions. Another notable development under her leadership was the creation of an innovative EdD programme, which was taught for many years in overseas centres including Hong Kong, Singapore, Lebanon and Oman. She also led the School through its first formal OfSTED inspection and oversaw the School’s move to the Fraser Noble Building, personally selecting fittings such as curtains and clocks.
Among her various publications, perhaps the best known is The Preachers of Culture, published in 1975. This examines the ideology of English teaching with particular reference to its implications for the role of the English teacher and to its relationship with the arts-based curriculum as it derives from the romantic theories of art and imagination, especially from the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
When Margaret retired in 1997 one of her former pupils, who had gone on to become a successful English teacher herself, wrote: "She was simply the best teacher of English I have ever met."
After retirement, Margaret continued to play an active part of the life of the University and the city. She was instrumental in bringing the Challenger Learning Centre to the National Space Centre, enabling thousands of children to benefit from training experiences based on simulated space flights. She also organised a series of concerts given by the famous Lindsay String Quartet and was a Director of the Friends of the Leicester International Music Festival.
In 2016, when she was thinking about how she might make a gift to charity, the University was foremost in her mind. After much consideration, she decided to make a gift to cardiovascular research at the University. She was herself looked after by Professor of Cardiology Professor Nilesh Samani. Margaret made incredibly generous gifts to several other of the University’s appeals and was much loved by colleagues in DARO.
Two research projects in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences were chosen to benefit from Margaret’s extremely generous donation of £150,000. In one project, Dr Tom Webb, together with Professor Sergey Piletsky from the Department of Chemistry, was able to chemically synthesise special affinity molecules called molecular imprinted nanoparticles (MIPs) that specifically bind to a key regulator of cholesterol. The second project investigated the influence of ethnicity in Atrial Fibrillation, focusing on epidemiology, risk factors and outcomes. This ‘Big Data’ project was a collaboration between Professor Andre Ng’s Atrial Fibrillation research group and Professor Kamlesh Khunti’s research group at the Centre for Ethnic Health Research.
Margaret Mathieson passed away on 18 February at South Lodge Care Home in Leicester, aged 90. The University extends its deepest condolences to her family.
At Margaret’s request, there will be no funeral.
Professor Nilesh Samani writes: "I am really sorry to hear of Margaret’s passing. She was a great supporter of cardiovascular research at the University and took a personal interest in the projects she funded. She was a personal friend who will be very much missed."
Professor Chris Wilkins, Head of the School of Education, writes: "I am very sad to hear of the passing of Margaret Mathieson, who led the School of Education with such distinction during the 1990s. She was central to the School’s successful response to the radical reforms of teacher education of that era, leading initiatives to develop the School as a truly global institution, particularly through educational leadership programmes and our ground-breaking professional doctorate. Unfortunately Margaret was unable to join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2022, but I am personally deeply appreciative of the lasting legacy of her service as Head of School."