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Obituary: Tez Quirke (1946-2018)

Tez with Asa Briggs and three other Union Presidents from the University's first decade at a reunion in 2007. Back row, L-R: Adrian Mugridge (62/63), Tom Macan (67/68), Tez Quirke (68/69) and Malcolm Reid (67).

Tez Quirke (AFRAS 1966), who died on Thursday 24 May 2018, was President of the Students’ Union from 1968 to 1969. For many people, that might have been sufficient experience of academic bureaucracy. But Tez thrived on it and went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career in university administration at the Open University; the Overseas Development Institute; Wye College, where he was Registrar; and the Courtauld Institute. He also acted as consultant and troubleshooter to more than one troubled institution.

Tez’s Union career started early: Returning Officer in his first year, Sports Federation Chairman in his second and sabbatical President in his third. His degree in Economics was not a distinguished one, but he might well have claimed a First in practical politics, for the late sixties were a heady time across the university world, not least at Sussex. In France a student-led movement had dislodged the government of Charles de Gaulle, in the UK there were strong, and not-always-peaceful protests about the War in Vietnam. At Sussex, Asa Briggs had taken over as Vice-Chancellor and was putting his boundless energy into driving forward the “new map of learning” and developing the new and exciting University of Sussex.

Tez remained unfazed by this whirlwind. His politics were of the left, but he took the view that battles were won by successful argument, not by shouting. And the student body had to respect the views of others, even if it disagreed with them. An occupation of the Finance Office in Essex House (at that time the Administration Building) was brought to a swift end on a Friday morning by Tez pointing out that, if the occupation did not end forthwith, the weekly-paid staff wouldn’t get the pay packets: this was no way to show solidarity with the least well-off members of the university community. Vice-Chancellor and President knew and respected each other’s point of view but always remained in contact: they remained fast friends until Asa’s death in 2016.

Tez was no conformist; at a University function to mark Asa Briggs’s 90th birthday, amidst the dark suits and sober neckties, Tez typically turned up in brightly striped shirt and patterned braces – no jacket, no tie.

Latterly, he lived in an apartment in an art deco building in Hastings, overlooking the pier, with a vertigo-inducing view of the waves directly below. From here he would send a stream of witty and whimsical emails signed “Tez – littorally”

He was ever a generous host and a kind friend.

Tom Macan (SOC 1965), Union President 1967-68
Mary McMurray (ENGAM 1967), Union Vice-President 1968, Union Secretary 1969-70


By: Tom Furnival-Adams
Last updated: Thursday, 7 June 2018

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