Sheila Gosden, 1928-2017

Academic who epitomised the term ‘university citizen’ remembered

April 27, 2017
Sheila Gosden

A University of Leeds scholar who exhibited a strong “love for people” during her time at the institution has died.

Sheila Gosden was born in 1928 in Hull, and she spent her early life there before graduating from Westfield College, University of London, where she obtained a degree in botany with zoology, and Hughes Hall, Cambridge, where she obtained a postgraduate certificate in education.

She began her career as a teacher at Nottingham Girls’ High School, but moved into higher education in 1958 by joining Leeds’ department of education as a lecturer. In her role, she had particular responsibility for those parts of the course concerned with teaching biology.

Still infused with an interest in the botanical field, she found time to undertake part-time research for a PhD in the biology department, with particular focus on the palaeobotany of several sites in the Yorkshire Dales – her love of which was not lost on her students. In 1973, she was promoted to senior lecturer, and when the School of Education was created, in 1976, she took charge of the school’s graduate certificate course. Between 1980 and 1982, she chaired the board of the Faculty of Education. By this time, she had married her education colleague Peter Gosden, who had joined the university in 1960.

Besides a strong commitment to equipping her students with the best preparation for their teaching careers, Dr Gosden was well known throughout Leeds, epitomising the definition of “university citizen”.

During her 35-year career at the university, she sat on the finance, welfare, student accommodation and catering executive committees for two decades, serving as chair of the last for 19 years. She was a member of the general purposes committee, the planning committee and the senate – at a time when female members were at a premium.

Outside the university, she represented Leeds on numerous external governing bodies, including that of the College of Ripon and York St John – one of the precursors to York St John University. On her retirement in 1991, the university rewarded her contributions by making her a life fellow, one of the few members of staff honoured for their service by Leeds in such a way. Her fellowship in turn allowed her to continue her association with the university through membership of the university court.

Bill Griffiths, former senior lecturer in the department of physics and astronomy, said that Dr Gosden was held in high regard by students and staff alike and was never afraid to speak her mind.

“Physically, she was quite a small person, but she had tremendous energy and was quite prepared to stand up and say: ‘This is how I think [something] should be done’,” he said. “[She did not limit herself to] just looking after staff, but students too – looking after the welfare of people right across the university. Those [who knew her] liked her a great deal.

“She [had a] love for people: talking to them and helping them.”

Dr Gosden died on 18 March and is survived by two great-nephews.

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