Bob Boucher, 1940-2009

Bob Boucher, a mechanical engineer who became vice-chancellor of two universities, has died.

April 9, 2009

He was born in Wembley on 25 April 1940 and educated at a Jesuit school before securing sponsorship from the Central Electricity Generating Board to study at Northampton College and then Borough Polytechnic. After winning a prize from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, as well as acting as president of the student union, he began his research career at the University of Nottingham. In 1970, after four years at Queen's University Belfast, he took up a post at the University of Sheffield.

During his first quarter of a century there, Professor Boucher became a professor and then head of the department of mechanical engineering, markedly raising its reputation and prestige. He also won acclaim, and much interest from industry, for his research on the measurement and control of liquids and gases.

The managerial flair Professor Boucher demonstrated in running a major department was recognised in his promotion to pro vice-chancellor - for academic affairs and later for research - in 1992. A further promotion followed in 1995, when he became principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (Umist). While there he helped to build Umist's coverage of the biological sciences and to forge links with Manchester Business School to create a leading centre for management education.

In 2001, Professor Boucher returned to Sheffield as vice-chancellor, where he spearheaded a wide-ranging programme to improve laboratories, student accommodation and the level of research. He also oversaw the events celebrating Sheffield's centenary in 2005 and, as a keen runner, took part in the half-marathon.

Professor Boucher was an enthusiastic ambassador for his discipline and was elected a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1994. He was made a CBE in 2000 for his services to higher education and the engineering profession. He retired in 2007 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sheffield this year.

Geoff Tomlinson, pro vice-chancellor for research at Sheffield, paid tribute to Professor Boucher for his success in "bringing on board key sponsors to create a flagship project in advanced manufacturing, a demonstrator of how universities can translate their research into industry". But he also recalled a man of "charming personality, enormous insight and vision. He was very sociable and liked to work with people. And he loved to tell jokes, though he laughed so much he never got to the punchline."

Professor Boucher died suddenly on 25 March and is survived by his wife, daughter, two sons and two grandchildren.

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