Frank Healey, 1923-2011

May 5, 2011

Frank George Healey was one of the leading figures in the reform of modern language teaching in universities during the 1960s and 1970s.

However, his introduction to university life had not been an easy one. His studies at the University of Birmingham were interrupted in 1942 when he was called up to the Army. Professor Healey served with both the Birmingham Officer Training Corps and the Home Guard.

He said the Home Guard, famously lampooned in Dad's Army, "certainly had its comic moments and conflicts with self-important civilian functionaries, but was built up around a hard core of First World War veterans who knew what it was like to face the enemy".

Training activities took place once or twice a week, but Professor Healey recalled that they were not without their compensations, as they were often preceded by preparatory meetings "to discuss tactics" in the local pub.

His first military posting was to London where, as the holder of a School Certificate in mathematics and physics, he was chosen to train as a radio operator at Norwood Technical College.

This four-month posting was very like a return to civilian life except that officers were in uniform and not allowed to venture further than Clapham Junction without an infrequently granted pass.

Professor Healey then served in Italy for three years before returning to the University of Birmingham in 1946. He graduated with a first in French and went on to receive a master's and a PhD in linguistic studies.

He remained at the university as a lecturer for 11 years before being appointed professor of French at Magee University College, Londonderry in 1960.

He returned to London in 1964 to become director of the University Education Project at the University of Manchester, where he wrote Foreign Language Teaching in the Universities (1967). In 1967, he became head of modern languages at Portsmouth Polytechnic and, with a team of lecturers, launched modern language courses accredited by the Council for National Academic Awards.

Five years later he was appointed professor of French at the University of Surrey, and he remained at the institution until his retirement in 1988.

Frank Menuge, a former senior lecturer in French at Surrey who was a colleague of Professor Healey, said: "He was a kind and friendly man who helped many people in their careers. He was well known for his extraordinary sangfroid when faced with difficulties and will be remembered with much affection by those who worked with him at Portsmouth and Surrey."

Professor Healey died on 9 March. He is survived by his wife Patricia and four children.

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