Andrew Thomson, 1936-2014

One of the leading figures in post-war British management education has died

February 12, 2015

During an illustrious career, Andrew Thomson was professor of management policy at the University of Glasgow, dean of the Scottish Business School, and the first dean of the School of Management at The Open University where he launched the institution’s MBA. He also served as both chair and president of the British Academy of Management, which he helped to establish in 1986.

Born in Stockton-on-Tees, the son of a Scottish engineer, he read politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Oxford in 1959 before completing a master’s in industrial relations at Cornell University in New York. He worked as a brand manager for Lever Brothers before deciding to become an academic, returning to Cornell to do his PhD from 1965 to 1968 at the Industrial and Labor Relations School.

A lifelong believer in social justice, Professor Thomson was very active in the Labour Party in the 1960s and 1970s, and met his first wife, Joan, while canvassing for the party in Hampstead, London. While working at Glasgow in the 1970s, he became good friends with leading lights of the Scottish Labour Party, including Donald Dewar, who would become the inaugural first minister of the Scottish Parliament after devolution. His academic career developed rapidly at Glasgow, with promotions from lecturer to senior lecturer and then reader, before he was appointed professor of business policy in 1978.

In 1988 he became the first dean of the School of Management at The Open University, a post he held until 1993 – and in the same year he was awarded an OBE. While at the OU, he launched the MBA and published, with his second wife Rosemary, one of the definitive works on management education: Managing People (1993). After retiring in 2001, Professor Thomson moved to New Zealand to be with his third wife, Angela.

He maintained an active interest in management and recently authored a new biography of businessman John Bolton, to be published later this year. He contributed to a biography of Lyndall Urwick, published in 2010, and co-authored The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective (2006).

Rebecca Taylor, dean of the OU Business School, described Professor Thomson as “a highly regarded and well-respected academic, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew and worked with him”.

Professor Thomson died on Boxing Day, having suffered a sudden blood clot in his lungs, and is survived by his two sons, Christen and Jack, his wife Angela and four grandsons.

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