Geoffrey Ford, 1942-2011

September 15, 2011

In addition to being a distinguished librarian, Geoffrey Ford was also famed for his "astoundingly untidy" office and formidable collection of Rudyard Kipling books.

Born in 1942, Mr Ford studied geology at the University of Leicester and in 1963 captained the first-ever Leicester team to win the television quiz University Challenge. He reprised his role as a University Challenge team member for the 35th anniversary of the show in 1998.

After his Leicester degree, Mr Ford went on to become a lecturer and librarian, working at Durham University before moving to Lancaster University, where he met his wife, Jill. He moved to take up roles at the University of Sheffield and the University of Southampton, and in 1990 relocated to the University of Bristol to become university librarian. In 2000, he was given the title of director of information services.

In addition to his work in the library, Mr Ford took an interest in academic life, and was central to the creation of a master's degree in information and library management at Bristol, a course on which he taught.

In 1973, he was awarded the Robinson Medal by the Library Association and he was an active member of the Society of College, National and University Libraries, serving as its chair between 1998 and 2000.

Mr Ford retired from Bristol in 2002 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In an NHS-produced pamphlet on the condition, Mr Ford was quoted as saying: "As someone who took great pride in doing the best they could for their career, I made the decision that the best option was for me to take early retirement at 60 before I felt I wasn't able to do my job properly any more."

After retirement, he maintained his links to academia by enrolling on a creative writing course. Cathryn Gallacher, director of library services at Bristol, and Mike Heery, former director of library services at the University of the West of England, said that he remained "optimistic and cheerful" after retirement.

In a tribute to Mr Ford, the pair write: "He could make interesting conversation about almost anything, including politics, the theatre, concerts, travel and books. He had a large library at home as well as at work, with 80 feet of shelving devoted solely to the works of Rudyard Kipling."

The pair also fondly remember him as someone with indecipherable handwriting who was forced by his secretary to keep "a couple of square feet" of office space free so that visitors had somewhere to put down their coffee cups.

They add: "It was a real privilege to have Geoffrey as a boss and a friend, and we will badly miss his company, his sense of humour and his enthusiasm for life."

Mr Ford died on 6 August.

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