News and events archive 2004 - 2013

PEOPLE - RETIREMENTS

Professor Bill Brammar Retires

Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Bill Brammar has retired after 30 years’ service to the University

Farewell to Distinguished Professor and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor Bill Brammar

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Bill Brammar has retired after 30 years' service to the University

Friends and colleagues met to say farewell to Professor Brammar with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Burgess, and Dr Tim Harrison, Head of Biochemistry, paying glowing tributes to him.

Professor Burgess particularly highlighted the sagacious advice Bill proffered in his capacity as Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor and reflected on his conscientious approach to all tasks that he undertook.

Professor Burgess recounted the occasion when he came to Leicester to be interviewed for the Vice-Chancellorship. He described how he researched the membership of the interview panel - which included Professor Brammar- and was told by a friend: ‘you can tell a lot by the way people play cricket and I can tell you that Bill plays cricket with a very straight bat, and you will find that is what he is like in all of your dealings with him. He is absolutely straight and he will aptly react on the basis of the qualities of the case.’

Turning to Bill Brammar, Professor Burgess said: “I have to say that, in terms of my dealings with you, and watching you handle really difficult cases across the University, that is the hallmark for me of everything that you do. You are always even handed, always constructive and always helpful. One of the things we shall miss greatly, I am sure, is that when there are difficult circumstances to deal with you can guarantee that Bill is always very calm about everything. He is a very good person to have around to deal with difficulties and challenges.”

Highlighting other distinctive facets of Professor Brammar’s career, Professor Burgess paid particular tribute to his investment of time and effort on the research base of the University: “I must say I greatly admire the way in which you have interfaced not just with a part of the University, but with the whole University, and thought about how to develop the research base in the Social Sciences and the Humanities, along with thinking about the Natural and Life Sciences and Medicine, and I thank you very much for that. I am sure that there are many people in this room who feel that they have received a huge amount of support from you.”

Professor Burgess also made particular mention of Professor Brammar’s dedication and diligence and the fact that he also found time to engage with students despite his heavy workload. Thanking Professor Brammar and his wife, Lynne, Professor Burgess said:

“During the time that I have been here, Bill has been the Vice-Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences and, in the last four years, I feel that I have been very fortunate in having Bill as the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor. I would like to thank Bill very much for the way in which he has participated in the University over the years, for the friendship and support he has offered us and, on behalf of the University, I would like to say thank you very much indeed and we all wish you every success in the future.”

Professor Brammar joined the University of Leicester in 1977 as Professor of Biochemistry and has moved through numerous senior roles, including Head of Department and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences, until, in 2003, he was made Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor (research).

Professor Brammar’s career in higher education started at University College London. This was a period when scientists traditionally spent a year or two in the States - Bill spent his two years at Stanford, working with Charles Yanofsky. Professor Brammar then went on to the University of Edinburgh where he worked in a unit which was on the interface of genetics and biochemistry. This was to later impact on his thinking about the way in which Leicester should go about developing the sciences within the University. Whist at the University of Edinburgh Bill was awarded the Colworth Medal by the Biochemical Society in 1975 for his work on gene cloning and amplifying gene expression.

According to Dr Harrison, Professor Brammar’s appointment “was absolutely critical in terms of bringing recombinant DNA technology, the new age technology as it was then, here to Leicester”.

Dr Harrison highlighted Bill’s contributions to the Biochemistry Department, identifying particularly Bill’s securing of a recombinant DNA facility and establishing the ICI/Leicester Joint Lab within a year of his arrival. This generously funded venture was a springboard for technological development at Leicester that ran extremely successfully for 11 years, closing only after the industrial partner had established appropriate facilities in-house.

Dr Harrison went on to describe Professor Brammar’s role in setting up the Leicester Biocentre a few years later and in securing funding for the Henry Wellcome Building, completed in 2004. Commenting on the Biocentre coming to Leicester through the energy and vision of Barry Holland, Dr Harrison added that the inspiration for that was the success of the ICI Joint Lab.

He said that Bill Brammar saw the value of strong commercial-academic interaction and he wanted to do it on a bigger scale in order to bring the new technology to the whole of industry and not just to ICI. Bill’s efforts paid dividends - Leicester got five industrial sponsors, and Wolfson funding for a new building.

Dr Harrison added that one of the keys to Bill Brammar’s success was his ambition, both for himself and the department. Along with colleagues, Bill had sought many grants and funding opportunities which greatly enhanced the University - the Henry Wellcome building being an impressive testament to this.

Whilst gaining these facilities for his department he played an integral role within it, said Dr Harrison. Even as a Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor he still engaged in the work of the Department he had been located in, and regularly advised students.

“Friends will undoubtedly remember him for his spirit, ability to calmly approach and solve problems and ability to listen, as well as a love for sport,” said Dr Harrison. Professor Brammar added, “I have been here for thirty years - I intended to come for perhaps ten or so.

“I have had terrific support during those thirty years, initially from Biochemistry. I came as a very green ‘new boy’, coming from a Lectureship in Edinburgh. I had never been to a Senate, or a Faculty Board - didn’t know what the hell they did.

“In the department there were lots of people around with lots of experience and, as this new boy, I decided I had better tap this experience, so I became a kind of Prime Minister to a very supportive senior cabinet and we worked very well as a team.

“I was quite chuffed that in the very first RAE, our department got a five, and the department to which our very distinguished previous head of Biochemistry had left to join, which was Biochemistry at Cambridge, didn’t get a five. In fact, I think that at that time, we were the only Biochemistry Department with a five. Now, times have changed but, fortunately, the department has gone on from strength to strength.

“The future is very bright - the University really is going from strength to strength and has a very exciting future. Most of you will be a part of it and I won’t, but I will watch from the sidelines with great enthusiasm. I wish you all, and the University as a whole, the greatest success. I hope it really does fulfil its promise, as I am sure it will. Many thanks indeed.”

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