Obituary - Donald Fraser

18th December 2009 at 00:00

Donald Fraser, who died in October, aged 77, was at the heart of the educational development process in Scotland at a key time. During that period he brought energy and imagination, humanity - and humour - to one of the most rewarding callings in the world - the education of our children.

It was from Donald's lips I first heard the word "module". Indeed, I'm not sure if he didn't help invent the term - as he devised the STEM modules during his time as principal teacher of technical subjects at the High School of Dundee.

After that, Donald became a lecturer at Dundee College of Education, and shortly after joined the new Scottish Curriculum Development Service. That was where I first met him, when I was a very young and inexperienced headteacher and he had a senior position in the SCDS in Dundee. Typically, he was exceptionally helpful and encouraging to me then, as he was, I know, to many of my colleagues.

Some years later, when I arrived as chief executive of SCCC (Scottish Consultative Committee on the Curriculum), it could have been an awkward situation - but Donald made it exactly the opposite. From the start, he was generous, supportive, insightful, utterly loyal and encouraging - and, of course, stunningly well organised.

It was a challenging time for SCCC nationally and politically, and Donald, as director for policy and administration, helped us navigate through some very troubled waters with his usual mixture of sensitivity, integrity, cheerfulness and energy. I'll always be grateful to him for his help and support - not just organisationally, but personally.

Scotland doesn't, these days, have many figures with an international reputation in the field of education. Donald was one of the exceptions. A talent simply accepted at home was honoured abroad, and Donald was in demand at conferences and as a consultant in Europe, the Far East and Australia.

Mind you, I think the tribute Donald would have appreciated most would have been one I heard from one of my friends who called me up to tell me he had died. My friend was in tears. He had been a pupil of Donald's many years before, and Donald, typically, had remained his mentor for many years after. He said to me: "Donald was a great, great teacher. He turned my life round and was my inspiration - and my help for the rest of my life."

I know he wasn't the only former student who could say that. In the pages of this journal, I can say, I don't think you can get higher praise!

Donald was an elder of St Mary's Kirk in Dundee. He is survived by Patsy, and Niall, Karin and Tricia - and his treasured grandchildren.

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