Michael Pittilo, 1954-2010

February 25, 2010

Michael Pittilo, principal and vice-chancellor of The Robert Gordon University, has died.

Although he had been battling cancer for some time, Professor Pittilo continued to work until just days before his death. He was described by David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, as a leader who was "always generous in his commitment, his views of others and his willingness to let others take credit".

Born in Edinburgh in 1954, Professor Pittilo was educated at the University of Strathclyde and the North East London Polytechnic (now the University of East London), where he completed a PhD on parasites in poultry in 1981. After undertaking postdoctoral research on arterial disease at Middlesex Hospital Medical School, he joined Kingston University and was later appointed head of life sciences.

By 1995, he was dean of health and social care across both Kingston and St George's Hospital Medical School (now St George's, University of London). In 2001, he was appointed pro vice-chancellor at the University of Hertfordshire, where he established a postgraduate medical school and a school of pharmacy.

His warm and open management style won him many friends. When he took up the post of principal and vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon in 2005, he insisted that staff called him Mike, shunning his full title to encourage a culture of friendliness among staff and students.

During his time at the helm, he built closer links with Aberdeen College and strived to improve Robert Gordon's research standing.

Investment in research boosted both the number and quality of researchers at the university. In the 2008 research assessment exercise, more than 70 per cent of its research was classified to be of international standard.

Outside university life, he was trustee of the Prince of Wales Foundation for Integrated Health and chaired numerous Department of Health working groups. He was appointed MBE in 2009 for services to health.

John Harper, acting principal and vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon, said the university had lost an "inspirational leader and a friend who will be sadly missed, not only for the direction he brought to the university, but also the warm rapport he had with both staff and students".

His words were echoed by Sir Duncan Rice, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, who said that "the North-East and Scotland have much to be grateful to him for - he is a great loss to the world of higher education".

Professor Pittilo died on 16 February and is survived by his wife Carol.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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