Reporter 415, 23 February 1998
Resolution adopted by the Senate (4 February 1998) on the retirement of
David Holdcroft has made a unique and outstanding contribution to the development and success of the University in recent years.
Graduating from Cambridge in 1960, David held academic posts in the Universities of Manchester and Warwick before being appointed Professor of Philosophy at Leeds in 1983. Well-known and appreciated in the philosophical community for his early work on speech-acts and especially his well-received Words and Deeds, David has wide philosophical sympathies and has contributed to many current debates, and to contemporary scholarship, notably to the study of the philosophy of F H Bradley. The breadth of his interests embraces continental philosophers and linguists, and in 1991 he published Saussure: Signs, System and Arbitrariness. In collaboration with Howard Davies he has also written on the philosophy of law, and their Jurisprudence: Texts and Commentary is widely used in law schools. For ten years, he was a very effective secretary of the Mind Association.
David served as Head of Department from 1984-87, and was notably encouraging of the research of his colleagues, taking a close personal interest in their projects. As Chairman of the Board of Arts (1988-90), his friendly approach was instrumental in forging a greater sense of cooperation and Faculty purpose and he had a way, gently, of making suggestions, planting ideas and moving things and people forward.
Such talents came to be deployed on the wider University stage when, in 1991, he was appointed Dean for Academic Development, before becoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research the following year. In these capacities, David was at the centre of many major developments. He was largely responsible for animating the complex and at times fraught process of implementing the new modular structure for taught degree programmes. Leeds led the way for the big civic universities in this development and faced a number of difficult issues in determining the rules. These were solved with conspicuous success. The new unified central timetable for teaching, in the introduction of which David had a key role, was integral to the process. These fundamental changes are still evolving but represent a significant legacy.
David was a very successful Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. He was instrumental in raising the University's research standing nationally and internationally, as shown in the results of the 1992 and 1996 Research Assessment Exercises. He was also able to make shrewd and perceptive contributions across the whole range of policy issues - University companies represent just one area to benefit from his knowledge and perspicacity - and he proved a very successful first Chairman of the Academic Development Division created within the Central Administration in 1994.
When he ceased to be Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1996, David agreed to become local organiser for the 1997 British Association Festival of Science held at the University in September of that year. The unqualified success of this event owed much to his tactful diplomacy and organisational insight.
Totally dependable and unswervingly committed to the University, David was never the remote administrator. Always accessible and visible around the University in a variety of settings, he was perhaps above all a wise head, ever ready for a cheerful chat and encouraging word, with an enviable facility for smoothing out problems; and, even with all the other calls on his time, he maintained his research and some teaching - for example, in jurisprudence, to the appreciation of Law students.
We wish David and Eileen a long and a happy retirement.
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