Philip Morris obituary

Other Lives: University research manager who also spent time as a bookseller

My friend Philip Morris, who has died aged 68 after suffering a heart attack, was a university research manager who dedicated the later part of his career to breaking the boundaries between academic disciplines.

He was born in Kings Heath, Birmingham, to Reginald Morris and his wife, Joan (nee Nevett), who together ran a sub-post office in Balsall Heath. As a teenager he energetically embraced the cutting edge of 1960s Birmingham, whether it was Mothers music club in Erdington, new films at the experimental Arts Lab in Aston, or cosmopolitan Moseley. On Saturdays he would escape in his mother’s Ford Anglia for some rock climbing in Derbyshire or North Wales.

After school at Moseley grammar he gained a place at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University) to study philosophy, where his love of learning led to an offer of going on to an MA at Cambridge University. However, he could not afford to do so, and instead settled for an MA place at Birmingham University, which allowed him to live with his parents. In 1978 he took up a scholarship in analytical philosophy at Helsinki University.

Initially Philip returned, in 1979, to live in London with his new wife, Bridget (nee Shepherd), whom he had met in Birmingham while they were both still at school. Then, after Bridget had taken up a job teaching at Hull University, they moved (now with two children) to nearby Beverley, where Philip continued his connection with philosophy as an adult education tutor in Grimsby.

In 1984, however, his love of books led him to take over a fading secondhand bookshop in Beverley. Within two years he had turned it into a thriving business with two branches, the other in York.

Excited by the possibilities of information technology, Philip decided to take a master’s degree in computer science in 1988, and left bookselling to become a research associate at the University of York. From there he was recruited to join the European commission’s Joint Research Centre, based in Ispra, near Milan. With typically adventurous spirit he relocated his entire family to Italy, spending the next eight years there and immersing himself in all things Italian.

Returning to the University of York as a research development manager in 2001, Philip spent the rest of his career supporting academics in the arts and humanities, identifying interdisciplinary research and funding opportunities, promoting commercial opportunities and establishing international networks.

On retirement he established an online business, Philip Morris Rare Books, and also became manager of the annual January book fair in York, one of the largest in Europe.

A dedicated husband and loving father, he had a kind and gentle nature.

He is survived by Bridget, their children, Eleanor, Edmund and William, and two grandchildren.

Patrick Kelly

The GuardianTramp

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