Professor John Benyon

Posted by pt91 at May 20, 2016 03:20 PM |

We have learnt, with great regret, of the death of Professor John Benyon, the founder of the University of Leicester’s Department of Criminology, former Director of Lifelong Learning, and Treasurer of the Political Studies Association. John died on Thursday 19 May 2016 after a short but brave battle against the cancer Mesothelioma.

John joined the University of Leicester from Warwick in late 1981, starting as a Lecturer in Public Administration, working in both the Department of Politics and what was then Adult Education. At this time his research moved from an interest in planning, local government and Dutch Elm disease to one stimulated by the urban riots erupting in a number of British cities in the early 1980s. From this came ground breaking research and publications, not least books including: Scarman and After, The Police: Powers, Procedures and Proprieties, and the Roots of Urban Unrest, which brought together critical debates of the time focussed upon the politics of law order, the meaning of social justice and the roles and responsibilities of the police.

Based upon this work and his connections with Lord Scarman, in 1987 John established the Centre for the Study of Public Order, which became the Scarman Centre in 1997 and subsequently the Department of Criminology. As part of this Centre, John was one of the early pioneers of distance learning at Leicester, quickly establishing a suite of successful programmes, some which are still running today. Through his hard work, determination and academic leadership, he created the foundations for what is now a highly successful and vibrant research and teaching centre, enabling many generations of students and academics alike to achieve their goals and ambitions.

Not one for resting on his laurels, John was then persuaded to take on a new role in Lifelong Learning at Leicester, first as Director and subsequently as Director of Research. He remained in the Institute, undertaking various senior roles, until his eventual retirement from the University in 2015. Throughout his time at Leicester, John was also an influential figure in the Political Studies Association (PSA), acting as its Treasurer for more than 25 years, which was recognised in 2015 with a Lifetime Contribution Award.

John was an academic leader with extraordinary energy, drive and determination to get things done. He made a profound and lasting contribution to the life of the University of Leicester and the subjects of politics and criminology. Without John there would not be a thriving and successful Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester, and equally, the PSA would not be the highly influential and well-resourced academic association that it is today.

John has left a very large and lasting legacy – which some of us have been very fortunate to benefit from. I was very lucky to be able to count John as one of my dearest friends, frequently enjoying his endless bonhomie, insights and advice on topics that would range far and wide.

Our thoughts are very much with his wife Colleen and his daughter Danni at this time – he will be very sadly missed but long remembered.

Professor Adrian Beck, Department of Criminology

Professor Clive Marsh, Director of Lifelong Learning, said: "It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of Professor John Benyon, former Director of Lifelong Learning here at the University (2000-8). John was an engaging and challenging colleague who had a passionate commitment to lifelong learning, a commitment which continued well beyond his (official) retirement in 2011. His lively presence, big personality and sense of humour will be sorely missed."

Dr Philip Lynch from the Department of Politics and International Relations said: “John Benyon spent much of his career at the University in the Scarman Centre for the Study of Public Order and then Lifelong Learning.  But John was a Professor of Political Studies, and made a major contribution to the study of politics and to the development of the discipline. On the latter, as Honorary Treasurer of the Political Studies Association from 1993 to 2015, he played a pivotal role in the growth and professionalisation of the organisation. On the former, John was Chair of the Editorial Board (1992-2010) of Politics Review, a magazine for A-level students which broke new ground by publishing short articles by leading academics in an accessible format. The magazine still retains its link with the Department of Politics and International Relations. He was also Series Editor of the successful Contemporary Political Studies (Palgrave Macmillan) book series. John will be missed greatly by Politics colleagues at Leicester and beyond.”

Professor Sir Bob Burgess, Vice-Chancellor (1999-2014) said: “I knew John Benyon long before I came to the University of Leicester as we were both lecturers at the University of Warwick. From those days I recall John as a great character: friendly, approachable, amusing and supportive. John was a great university figure locally and nationally who developed many new initiatives. Nationally he was heavily involved in the social sciences through his work for the Political Studies Association and the Academy of the Social Sciences. He will always be remembered for his enthusiasm and his support of academic projects and academic colleagues.”

Former Vice-Chancellor (1987-99) Dr Ken Edwards said: “I was very sorry to hear the sad news of the death of John Benyon. I encountered John soon after I arrived as Vice-Chancellor in 1987 for that was the year when the Centre for the Study of Public Order was created. I immediately liked him. His enthusiasm and energy were truly impressive, even if his activities occasionally created waves which caused turbulence elsewhere and required a discreet intervention by the VC. He was very productive and stimulated others with his enthusiasm. He was open and direct in ways which I appreciated. He put forward his ideas and points of view, which were often challenging, but with honesty; he and I often had vigorous conversations but without edge and usually ended in agreement. One of his enthusiasms was in distance learning and his own work in this field convinced others that it was applicable in their subjects, so helping to make this a widespread and important form of teaching across the University.   John’s contribution to the University was very considerable. I enjoyed working with him and, although I have had little contact with him in recent years, it is with great sadness that I heard of his death.”

Jackie Dunne, former colleague and currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton, said: "I worked with John Benyon for 13 years at the University of Leicester and I can honestly say that when John was around, there was never a dull moment! His enthusiasm and energy led to him making his mark at the university across a number of initiatives, including in the Scarman Centre and the Institute for Lifelong Learning. He was also a highly respected academic in the field of political science, and in particular was very active in the Political Studies Association, nationally. John had a long and distinguished academic career and he was a colleague and friend to many. Having worked very closely with John, it was also clear to see that he was devoted to his family. He will be sadly missed."

A service and funeral will be held on the 8th June at 12.30pm, at St John the Baptist Church, Clarendon Park Road, Leicester, LE2 3AD. A wake will follow at College Court. All are welcome.

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