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Obituary: Emeritus Professor Henry Arthur Jones, CBE


All of Arthur's friends, colleagues and students - and the nature of the man meant that these categories were mutually inclusive - will be saddened by the news of his
death on April 14. 

He came to this University in 1967 upon appointment to the Vaughan Chair of Education and the Directorship of the Department of Adult Education. His decision to respond to the invitation - for invitation it was - brought not only a man of style, learning and wit to the University but one who was already by that time one of the leading figures in adult education and who carried, albeit lightly, a knowledge and
experience of the field which it must have been difficult to equal. 

His story was that, as a young man, he had gone to Manchester intending to read
French. But the Admissions Tutor for English 'looked lonely', so Arthur finished
up in 1936 graduating with First in English and as the George Gissing Prizeman. 

Two years as a research fellow led to his MA and then, as with so many of his contemporaries, his career was interrupted by the war, during which he served with the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Durham Light Infantry. He was invalided out as the consequence of an accident and went back to his old school - Chorley Grammar - as Senior English Master. This he enjoyed, to the extent that he would recall there being no better way of earning a living than being paid to sit in the sun and watch boys playing cricket. 

His career as an adult educator started with his appointment as Resident Staff Tutor at Manchester University in in 1947, and then as Assistant Director of Extra Mural Studies at Liverpool University in 1949, to become Deputy Director, working with Tom Kelly, in 1953 He was working with many - Kelly, Wiltshire, Styler and others - who may be considered the architects of post-war university adult education. 

But he found the environment a narrow one with university prejudices on one side and Ministry Regulations on the other. His vision needed a wider field, and he took the job of Principal of the City Literary Institute in 1957. This was not an 'easy' job. The
politics of the (then) ILEA had to be coped with and the Institute itself had to be developed. But it was a fertile field for a fertile mind and Arthur's imagination and 
skills produced a stream of remarkably varied people moving in and out of the building morning, lunchtime, afternoon and evening. 

The City Lit became a centre of good practice and innovation, attracting world wide attention for both the scale and the imaginative vision of its work. It was at this time that he entered the national scene and became associated, often as founder, with many of the public voices making what was then the very difficult case for adult education - he was the Chair of the Adult Education Association, a member of the IBA Adult Education Committee and he worked with the National Institute of Adult
Education, the DES Library Council, the Educational Centres Association and the Pre-Retirement Association amongst others. 

Putting his national work alongside his innovative work at the City Lit it is difficult to exaggerate his influence during these crucially formative years for adult education.
When he came to Leicester in 1967 he brought with him an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field, finely-honed political skills, a profound belief in the professionalism of adult education and the conviction that the true importance of adult education lay in its ability to expand the human spirit and widen individual horizons. 

Himself a stickler for accuracy of expression and meticulous in his approach to intellectual and academic matters, he held a deep concern for those who had missed the educational boat (witnessed, for example, in his passionate commitment to the early days of the adult literacy movement). These enthusiasms and energies were
matched only by his quick and highly articulate dismissals of those whose adherence to either intellectual exclusiveness or to bureaucratic language, or, even worse, to a sense of their own importance, threatened to close doors rather than open them. 

He was also the natural choice to become the 'university voice' on the Secretary of State's Committee on Adult Education (the Russell Committee) and was, in effect, the principal author of the Report. This was a major achievement recognised by his appointment as CBE in 1974. Although much discussed, the Report appeared to be shelved, and this was a great disappointment to Arthur. But it entertains many of us to see many of those ideas now creeping back, albeit expressed at times in a language which would have attracted Arthur's derision. 

He was elected Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester in 1978, a post which he held, with distinction, until his retirement in 1981. A skilled and articulate
administrator he had the gift of getting through piles of papers with enviable efficiency and speed, and was not one for meetings other than useful ones. This left him with the time to put aside his own major problems as a senior manager so that he could listen with patience to the problems of others. These were formative, and very difficult, years for the University - he worked hard and well and left behind many good things. 

Although Arthur never produced the 'big book' - and what a treat that would have been - he was a master of the short piece and monograph, many of these being part of the campaign to promote adult literacy and the cause of the educationally
disadvantaged, and each of them having an immediate practical impact. And he was a masterly editor of such journals as Studies in Adult Education, keen and effective in ensuring that the profession presented itself in a scholarly light. 

But maybe the major impact he made was as friend and adviser to potential authors, a constant stream of which dared not go to press without his scholarly eye - as quick to spot an intellectual nonsense as a grammatical error - having seen what was proposed. 

His energy and enthusiasm carried forward into his retirement. Not only did he retain an interest in university affairs and - to him most importantly - the people therein, and take up a short Visiting Chair at UBC, he rekindled many of his old enthusiasms mainly through his work with the Harborough Theatre, making things with his hands, working with many groups in his village, writing about his village, cultivating his garden
in a typically knowledgeable way and devoting himself to his family and many, many friends. 

Although Arthur took everything he did very seriously, he never took himself very seriously: a major figure himself, he could never quite see this, though he had the power to make all those who exchanged the time of day with him feel that they were major figures. He was a gifted teacher: all those who worked with him took something good away. He will be remembered by some as a major architect of many of the movements within adult education: by some as a skilled administrator: by some for
his unassailable belief in the creativity waiting to be unlocked in all of us: by some for his quick wit which could be used devastatingly to deflate the self-important, but just as readily and kindly to ease the passage of those less sure. 

But all those - and there are many - whose lives he touched will remember him for his generosity of spirit, his unfailing sense of the comic and that most precious gift of friendship. 

Emeritus Professor Bill Forster 
April 2002

[death notice]

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