Michael Richardson obituary

Other lives: Pioneer in the field of continuing education who was highly regarded by the wider academic community

My dad, Michael Richardson, a nationally prominent figure in the field of lifelong learning, has died at the age of 81.

Mike began work within the education setting at Alfreton Hall Adult Community Education Centre run by Derby county council. He joined the Open University in 1970 and was based at Newcastle and then Manchester. After 21 years he was appointed pro-vice-chancellor of the OU, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1994. Throughout his time at the OU, Mike was hugely humbled by the stories of countless people who sacrificed so much to continue their learning as adults.

In 1990 he was appointed the director of the Board of Extramural Studies at Cambridge University (now the Institute of Continuing Education), based at Madingley Hall, and the family moved to Cambridge where my parents perfected the art of punting on the Cam.

At Madingley, Mike was instrumental in moving the continuing education programme into a recognised credit framework, raising the status of Cambridge’s provision. He oversaw the completion of a major building project to provide better facilities for residential learners.

He was born in Aurangabad, Maharashtra State, in India, to Emery Richardson, a missionary and vicar, and Margaret (nee Elliott), a teacher and “vicar’s wife”, and had a sister, Ann. After attending Pocklington school in Yorkshire, he went into national service as an officer cadet in Cheshire. He studied theology at St John’s College, Cambridge, where, through his sister, he met Gillian Jones, who was at Girton College. They married in 1965.

A highly regarded member of the wider academic community, Mike was a fellow of Wolfson from 1991 to 2003 and emeritus fellow from retirement. He was secretary of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (formerly the Universities Association for Continuing Education) from 1998 to 2002, a time when there were many challenges facing the adult education sector.

He retired in 2003 and the following year he and Mum moved back to Corbridge, Northumberland, where they had lived from 1970 until circa 1978. There, Dad became a well-known member of the Rotary Club.

He found the years following Mum’s death in 2015 very difficult. After a stroke in 2019 he was determined to live an independent life at home. The restrictions of the past months made him feel very isolated, but he remained in regular contact with his family and friends. He received a huge amount of practical and emotional support from the Corbridge community, which gave him care and companionship.

Known for his integrity, tenacity and desire to make a change for good in people’s lives, Dad was a modest, approachable, generous gentleman who touched the lives of many people and inspired countless others.

He is survived by his two daughters, Frances and me.

Helen Nisbet

The GuardianTramp

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