Tributes were paid this week to Roland Levinsky, vice-chancellor of Plymouth University, who was killed by a falling power cable on New Year's Day.
Professor Levinsky, 63, was walking his dog in a field at Wembury in southwest Devon when the freak accident happened during a storm.
Professor Levinsky, an expert in immunology, working on bone marrow, stem cells and gene therapy, became vice-chancellor of Plymouth in 2002, moving from University College London where he was vice-provost.
In his four years at the university Professor Levinsky had overseen major, sometimes controversial changes, including the decision to relocate to two campuses.
Mark Cleary, Plymouth's deputy vice-chancellor, said Professor Levinsky was a "very powerful figure" and that the university had suffered "a huge loss".
He added: "He was formidable in the French sense of the word.
"He took difficult decisions - he did not find them easy but he felt they were important and we are a stronger university as a result."
Professor Levinsky's predecessor Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University, said: "He had a radical streak clearly formed from his early experience in South Africa, which made him a great reforming vice-chancellor. I shall miss him greatly."
Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "We were deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this terrible tragedy and our thoughts are with Professor Levinsky's family."