Friends and colleagues past and present pay tribute to the retiring Vice-Chancellor

Bob Burgess’s fifteen years as Leicester’s Vice-Chancellor have been years of quite remarkable commitment and achievement. We congratulate him on a job so very well done.
The Rt. Hon Lord (Bruce) Grocott, Chancellor

It has been an enormous pleasure to have worked with you. The wider economic and social wellbeing of our city and county is much the richer for having benefitted from your vision and leadership on a range of inter-agency partnerships.
Jennifer, Lady Gretton, Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire

I had heard much about the University of Leicester before I arrived but quickly recognised that the new Vice-Chancellor had a vision and an ambition for the University which was probably challenging and stimulating for his new colleagues. In the last fifteen years I have seen how skilfully Bob has both developed and realised his vision, continually striving for excellence and going to great lengths to raise standards. But Bob has also been a great friend and colleague, not least in the partnership formed between the Diocese and the University following the discovery of Richard III.  Knighton Hall has been a place of hospitality where Bob and Hilary have consistently brought together academics, civic leaders, faiths, the voluntary sector and many others into conversations and networks immensely strengthened by the warmth and openness of our hosts.  I feel deeply grateful to Bob for all that he has achieved in our City and County, but especially for the way he has modelled thoughtful, professional, sympathetic and humane leadership which has had more effect on the culture of our common life than he can imagine.
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Lord Bishop of Leicester

I was impressed by his decisiveness. I spent 8/9 years as his Dean of Medicine and probably saw more of him than any other academic member of staff outside of his Pro-Vice-Chancellors. For a while Knighton Hall seemed like my second home and I quickly found that Bob and Hillary were superb hosts. I am absolutely delighted that Bob has put all his weight behind the new Centre for Medicine building. This will be a fitting and lasting legacy to his support for Medicine at Leicester.
Ian Lauder, former Dean of Medicine

Almost my first task on taking over as Chairman of the University Council in 1998 was to chair the Appointment Committee that was set up to find a new Vice-Chancellor. At the end of this process we chose two finalists: the second was punchy, and full of drive, determination, and grit. To my considerable surprise - and delight - it turned out that the decision was immediate and unanimous. Every single one of us chose the second candidate - Bob Burgess. Although there were times in the eight years that I worked with Bob as Chairman of Council when we did not immediately see eye to eye with each other, I never for a moment had any doubt that we had made exactly the right choice, and indeed that we had been immensely lucky in finding a Vice-Chancellor so well suited to the needs of the University at that time. It was a great privilege for me to work through those years with a man of Bob's immense capabilities, and his equally immense determination to make the University the huge success it has become. His achievements are all around us.
John Foster, former Chairman of Council

Bob knew where he wanted the University to go and was in a hurry to get there.  I remember one of the first Monday-morning Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Committee (VCAC) meetings that I attended; Bob suggested a piece of work that he wanted me to do.   I was thinking that it sounded reasonable and I’d bring a paper back to VCAC in a month or two on the subject.  “Next Monday alright for that John?” he said!  His “new broom” attitude did not enamour him to all academic staff, especially soon after his arrival, but looking back one can see that the University benefited hugely from Bob’s vision and drive – perhaps the two key ingredients for Vice Chancellor.  He acquired the nickname “Bob the Builder”, which I’m sure he was proud of.
The developments in the estate, the improvements in reputation for both teaching and research, and the improvements in infrastructure including the library and IT, are testimony to some excellent leadership that put Leicester firmly on the map at the beginning of the 21st century.
Professor John Fothergill, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor

Bob’s diplomatic skills and clear-sightedness were immensely valuable in helping to chart a course through some difficult waters at the beginning. When the Funding Councils regretfully decided that in the face of renewed financial constraints they could no longer fund the Research Information Network, Bob was unstinting in his support. With his help, along with many others’, the RIN was reinvented in 2011 as an independent company which has continued to foster the development of better information services for researchers. He continues to serve on the new RIN Board and we hope to benefit from his wise counsel for some time to come.
Michael Jubb, Director, Research Information Network

I was impressed by his energy, enthusiasm and efficiency. I used to complain to him that his expansion of the University meant I had to shake more hands at graduation ceremonies.  His reaction was not to slow down the expansion but to come in and share the handshaking!
Michael Atiyah, former Chancellor

Bob Burgess was a remarkable Chairman of the UCAS Board during a time of extraordinary change and development at the admissions service. It requires a strong nerve to steer an organisation through massive technological change and Bob was certainly the man for the job.
Anthony McClaren, Chief Executive, Quality Assurance Agency

We quickly came to know each other as, unusually for mainstream Sociology departments, Bob had a developed research interest in the sociology of education and the field of education more generally. It was soon clear to me that Bob's ability and energy would take him far in the academic world.
Gerry Bernbaum, University of Leicester 1964-93, London South Bank University 1993-2001

Bob, when you were recruited one of my suggestions to the interview panel was that we should look for a VC with a happy disposition to lift the spirits of the whole organisation. You must have found this difficult at times with so many obstacles to overcome, but you always remained cheerful and found a way through. A 'can do' culture is now evident in the University of Leicester and your legacy will endure.
Gerry Cinderby

Professor Sir Bob Burgess will always be an important part of the history of Leicester University, and words “Elite without being Elitist” will be remembered forever.
Freda Hussain, Member of the University Council

Bob has always been approachable and accessible, and has kept me involved, though I am well past giving any positive contribution beyond my lasting affection and support.  I will miss him and Hilary more than I can say, and I wish them well in their retirement.  They are a hard act to follow.
Jean Humphreys

It is not only the reputation of the University which has grown, for in the last 15 years we have seen new buildings and the refurbishment of many of the older ones. So the soubriquet of ‘Bob the Builder’ is applicable to our departing Vice Chancellor – in fact it could have been invented for him! His love of sculpture led him to develop the annual exhibition of Sculpture in the Garden, which has been valued and enjoyed by the people of Leicester. He has had the unstinting support of his wife Hilary. I shall always remember them with gratitude for their friendship and kindness.
Provost Derek Hole

I can think of no-one more than Bob who has done so much for sculptors and for bringing sculpture to the general public. But the importance of the impact on the people of Leicester and the local community can never be overestimated.  Whilst filming during the exhibition three years ago, I was impressed by the vast number of visitors on a normal weekday who wanted to chat about sculpture and visited the site frequently. These were people who would have never considered stepping foot inside an actual art gallery, but the inclusive atmosphere of the gardens allowed for visitors to enjoy artwork in the beautiful setting. The sculptures presented ‘something for everyone’ and stimulated the spectator, all because of Bob’s 'vision’ to make sculpture accessible and available.
Margaret Lovell

Professor Sir Robert Burgess is a remarkable individual who has had the visualisation and foresight to see that the arts has a significant role to play in our society. In the 30 years plus that I have worked in the arts I have never met such a passionate supporter and provider for the arts.  It has been a great honour and pleasure to work with him over the last 6 years.
Stella Couloutbanis, Co Project Manager for Sculpture in the Garden, since 2009

I am particularly grateful for the time that you have taken to discuss issues and for the interest you have shown in all our activities.
Professor Andy Abbott, Department of Chemistry

Bob could always see the bigger strategic picture in terms of estate development. Bob was always very gracious at the opening of new facilities and always included references to my team's involvement.
Paul Goffin, former Director of Estates

Bob came to see me to discuss how a Vice-Chancellor should approach financial issues. I was a little flattered by the request, and made some suggestions along the lines of keeping the Finance Director involved, keep yourself well informed on financial position, budget prudently, be hard nosed on business plans for new ventures, generate non-government income, and so forth. When I came to Leicester myself in 2005, I was very gratified to find all my suggestions in operation here. I give him great credit for his part in the revival of Leicester's financial fortunes.
James Hunt, former Director of Finance

As Chair, Bob’s role is to ensure long term stewardship of the organisation, ensuring that the Executive is focused on the future in particular. Bob has been at the helm at a very exciting period, overseeing activity as diverse as an extensive programme of refurbishment works in two separate office locations; and the introduction of an interactive online data tool, which lets you explore 30 years of the British Social Attitudes survey.
Charlie Partridge, NatCen Social Research

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