John Reid

24th August 2012 at 01:00
The engineer and principal who helped to reinvent Bell College of Technology has died at the age of 80

John Reid, who has died aged 80, was a former principal of both Motherwell College and Bell College of Technology and an architect of the University of the West of Scotland.

The son of a miner, he was the youngest of nine and born in the Bishopbriggs area of Glasgow. Educated at Milton School, he won a bursary to the city's prestigious Hutchesons' Grammar but turned it down in favour of going to Possil High.

From school, he went to Drysdale and Co. engineers in Yoker as an apprentice engineer. There, he was routinely named apprentice of the year. He joined the Merchant Navy at 21 and sailed the world for the next six years, working his way up to gain his chief engineer's ticket.

On his return, he gained a BSc in mechanical engineering from the newly formed University of Strathclyde, and his teaching certificate, in the mid-1960s.

He then moved into the field of marine engineering, working at Weir Pumps where one of his key roles was liaising with the Institute of Marine Engineering in London, of which he became one of the youngest fellows of his day.

Although he was offered the opportunity to work in London, he preferred to remain in Scotland and follow a career in education. He took a post as engineering lecturer at Glasgow's Stow College and was later promoted to head of department.

His next move was to Hamilton as head of Bell College of Technology's engineering department. He was later appointed principal of Motherwell College, where he remained for five years.

He had been planning to retire at 60 but, aged 59, was offered the top post at Bell College. There he set about reinventing the college, feeling that it had not reached its full potential. His ambition was to see the institution gain university status and he was a key driver in that campaign, laying the groundwork for its transformation.

Although it did not become a reality until several years after his retirement in 1998, he was exceptionally proud when it became an integral part of the University of the West of Scotland.

Mr Reid instilled his own brand of enthusiasm in countless students, believing he had more to offer as a lecturer, having had the benefit of working at sea and in industry before embracing academia.

Variously known as "JR", "Rab C in a suit", and allegedly the self-styled "Big Eagle" - flying above and keeping an eye on the staff and students - his dynamic style was tough and challenging and he was sometimes seen as a bit rough round the edges. But he was also tenacious and the sort of man who, if he was going to do something, had to give it his all.

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