Emeritus Professor Mark Thompson

Posted by pt91 at Jun 14, 2017 02:55 PM |

We have learnt, with great regret, of the death of Emeritus Professor Mark Thompson on 13 June. He was a Professor of Law at Leicester from 1996 and Head of Department for Law between 1999 and 2000. He also held the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor from 2004 and then Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor from 2007.

Professor Francois Du Bois, Head of Leicester Law School, said: "Mark Thompson was one of the outstanding academic lawyers of his generation, leaving a deep imprint not only on his area of specialization, Land Law, but also on this institution, which he helped lead as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for more than ten years. Very few academics achieve in either of these endeavours as much as he did; fewer still in both.

"Mark was also one of our most distinguished alumni, having studied for the LLB at the University of Leicester from 1975 to 1978. He quickly took up an academic career, being appointed to a Lectureship at Keele in 1979, from where he moved to Essex in 1982 and thence to Leicester in 1985.". His first appointment to a Chair followed rather swiftly, in 1991 at Newcastle, where he was also Head of the Department of Law between 1993 and 1995. He then returned to Leicester as Professor of Law from 1996 until his retirement in 2016. Here he played a leading role in what was then the Department of Law, as Head from 1999 to 2002, and across the whole University as PVC for Resources 2004-2015 and Senior PVC 2007-2015, before returning to the School to concentrate on research. As always, he contributed fully to communal academic activities, participating in the Private Law Research Cluster and assisting several colleagues with the development of their careers. He retired in 2016 by reason of ill-health, maintaining his links with us as Emeritus Professor.

"Mark wrote extensively on Land Law, being the author, or co-author, of several books and over 100 articles, book chapters and notes.

"The first of his books was on Co-ownership, published in 1988, followed by monographs on Investigation and Proof of Title in 1991 and Repossession of Property on Mortgage Default in 1993. At this point he had also started authoring general texts on Land Law: Megarry's Manual of the Law of Real Property in 1993; Land Law: Fundamental Legal Principles (1995); and Barnsley’s Conveyancing Law and Practice (1996). After his return to Leicester, Mark was appointed a Consultant Editor of Halsbury’s Laws of England, and published his magisterial Modern Land Law with Oxford University Press. He returned to the latter when he re-joined the School in 2015, and was very pleased to complete writing a 6th edition before his health declined too much, with Martin George as co-author.

"Mark also published a number of book chapters, but was especially prolific as author of journal articles in The Conveyancer and Property Lawyer, the leading journal in his field. He was Case Notes Editor of The Conveyancer and Property Lawyer between 1994 and 2004, remaining a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal afterwards.

"The influence of Mark’s work reached beyond academia. Well before the REF required attention to the social impact of our work, Mark was already pursuing this through engagement in law reform initiatives. He acted as a consultant to the Law Commission for two reports in late 80’s. One of these resulted in a proposal implemented by the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. More recently, he was on several occasions an invited participant in Law Commission discussion groups.

"Mark pursued excellence in everything he did, and will be remembered and celebrated for his dedication to Law at Leicester and the wider University. He is survived by Cathy, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy for her loss."

Tributes from colleagues and friends follow below. If you wish to provide a tribute to Professor Thompson please e-mail pt91@le.ac.uk

Colin Munro, Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Edinburgh, writes: "It was terribly sad to hear of the death of Mark, a good friend in the early years of the Essex Law School and afterwards. He was a dedicated university man, committed to his teaching, his students, and to scholarship in his subjects, loyal to the department and to the university. He was also a very human, warm and sociable person, frank and unpretentious, and finding humour in the foibles of colleagues and others. I had the greatest respect for him as a colleague, but Ruth and I will also remember many happy leisure times at the Black Buoy in Wivenhoe and elsewhere. Cheers, Mark, you have left us far too early and left the world a duller place."

Professor Malcolm Shaw QC, Emeritus Sir Robert Jennings Professor of International Law at the University of Leicester, said: "I first came across Mark in the late 1970s ​when I was completing a PhD at Keele University and doing some part-time teaching and he was finishing an LLM and also doing some teaching at the university. We hit it off and had many good discussions. Our paths crossed again when (as Head of the Law Department) I chaired a panel that appointed him to a lectureship at Essex University, a new and vibrant Law Department created with great success by Professor David Yates. Mark was a wonderful colleague, one of the few that could always be relied on to help with no ulterior agenda. He was also a rising start in the field of land law, who made himself available always to staff and students. He moved on to University of Leicester after a few years and in 1989, I joined him there. His warm and witty and helpful character manifested itself in full there, but was added to by his growing strength in managerial and administrative experience, which paralleled the development of his academic career. He succeeded well in this difficult area of university administration and was well and warmly respected by all who came across him as he sought to help departments in increasingly difficult times. The University will miss his sure touch. His many friends will miss his cheeriness, sense of humour, constant good advice, intelligence and friendship. An all-round good guy, who left us years too soon."

Professor Sir Robert Burgess, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: "Professor Mark Thompson was an excellent colleague and friend of many staff and students in the University. He had an excellent knowledge of the University from his time as an undergraduate and through his period as a senior member of the Law department and Head of Department. Subsequently he became Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor - roles that presented major challenges which he handled with great success. In all his dealings with individuals there was one key principle - he always treated people with respect even when they were being difficult.

"Mark was known for his integrity and fairness, compassion and humanity. In particular he was very creative in helping heads of departments think imaginatively about staffing so that a good outcome could be achieved for the University as well as for the department. He was good at taking difficult decisions and keeping people on side. It was evident that he did not wish to follow trends in management for their own sake. For him concepts of fairness, consistency and keeping focused on university development were essential. He understood what was required to develop a successful university and this became the focus of his work with academic and professional colleagues.

"Many people also found Mark a source of good advice that helped them develop their careers. Students found his teaching and research in Land Law clear and accessible. He knew that engaging with students alongside doing research was at the heart of higher education.

"Mark will be remembered for his many achievements in Land Law and for the leadership he gave staff and students."

Steve O'Connor, formerly Director of Development at the University of Leicester, said: "Mark was a wonderful fellow alumnus from the vintage Class of '75 and an inspirational colleague in later years. Highly regarded for his powerful intellect and courage, Mark was passionate and proud of Leicester and the University for which he achieved so much. I will miss him for 'the craic', his enduring friendship and mischievous smile."

Dr Lorna Gillies, Lecturer in Commercial Law, University of Strathclyde, (Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Law at University of Leicester Law School 2002-2015) said: "I am very saddened to hear of the death of Professor Mark Thompson. One word sums up Mark for me: genuine. He was, technically, my first Head of Department when I joined Leicester Law School in 2002.

"I will always remember the interview for what would become my first full-time lectureship - Mark, Professor Will Light, Professor Cosmo Graham, two other University Professors and I engaged in a genuine conversation. The welcome to Leicester began before I arrived, and this was thanks to Mark. I began my lectureship with another six colleagues. Mark would often join us and our partners for a curry in one of the many excellent curry houses along London Road. Good times.

"I am also tremendously grateful for Mark's continued support during my time at Leicester Law School. He was a genuine, encouraging, supportive and trusted colleague. I am glad we managed to have a coffee and a chat before I left Leicester in July 2015. Stephen, our three girls and I extend our deepest condolences and thoughts to Mark's family and friends at this very sad time."

Professor A. David Yates, Warden of Robinson College and who worked with Professor Thompson at Essex University, said: "I was enormously sad to learn of Mark’s death. I last heard from him in January of this year when he told me some of the details of his illness but however much one may be prepared for such an event it still comes as a shock.

"Mark was a real scholar and publishing powerhouse. When I set up the new Law School at Essex University in 1979 (though the first students did not arrive until 1980) Mark was one of the very earliest members of staff I recruited (“poaching” him from Keele in 1981 - though in the end he was unable to take up his appointment until 1982). I had encountered him when I was an external examiner at Keele and had determined to lure him to the new law school at Essex since it was not only clear that he would go far in his chosen profession but also that he had in abundance that “pioneering spirit” so necessary for the start of a new venture. It was soon evident that I had not been guilty of any misjudgement. Mark embarked, from his earliest time at Essex, on a ferocious schedule of research, writing articles on property law, at one and the same time both illuminating and controversial, that managed to be both scholarly and written with a clarity that was not always matched by the writings of those scholars with whose work he took issue. This led to Mark successfully crossing swords in print with scholars at the time many years his senior. As a teacher he developed a reputation for clarity of exposition and dedication to his students that was the envy of many and the delight of the undergraduates. His passion for expeditions to the local curry houses (often involving a minor diversion to the pub en route) with both colleagues and students in tow were matters of Essex legend and it seems from what others have written about Mark this was a habit from which he never deviated throughout his life.

"When I left the Chair at Essex to return to legal practice I remained in touch with Mark and, while our professional interests diverged as I moved away from property and housing law and settled more into those commercial law areas on which I ended up advising clients, while Mark remained wedded to his passion for property law, we remained in touch. It was, nevertheless, increasingly clear to me that Mark would make, and indeed has made, a lasting impression both on the practice and study of property law and on his alma mater, Leicester University, the interests of which he served with such outstanding dedication, distinction and success. He will be sorely missed."

He quickly took up an academic career, being appointed to a Lectureship at Keele in 1979, from where he moved to Essex in 1982." with "He quickly took up an academic career, being appointed to a Lectureship at Keele in 1979, from where he moved to Essex in 1982 and thence to Leicester in 1985."

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