Global Development Institute Blog

By Jayne Hindle, David Hulme, Merrick Jones and Debra Whitehead

It is with great sadness that the Global Development Institute (GDI), University of Manchester reports the passing of Dr Ronald Clarke (‘Ron’) on 12 September 2022 at the age of 89. Dr Ron Clarke was appointed to the Department of Administrative Studies (DAS) in 1975 when the department was in its infancy and had very few staff. Subsequently, and with major contributions from Ron, it evolved into the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM). Ron taught at DAS and IDPM, as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer for almost 25 years until his retirement in 1999. In the 1990s he served as Deputy Director for IDPM at a time when the Institute was expanding and rapidly strengthening its academic reputation.

Ron was a popular figure at the University. Always smiling and usually with a joke to tell, he was devoted to his students and gently encouraged his academic colleagues to resolve problems and play as a team. A pint or two with Ron, often after monthly DAS/IDPM internal board meetings, was always fun and a way of gently moving things forward. He was also greatly appreciated by the professional support staff (‘course secretaries’ in that era) who worked with him. He ensured that ‘secretaries’ enjoyed their work and got to know their students well.

Dr Ron Clarke taught development management and will be fondly remembered by thousands of alumni, many now retired from senior public service positions in Asia, Africa, the United Nations and other international development agencies. For many years he directed the Postgraduate Diploma in Training and Development and taught on the MSc’s in Human Resource Management (HRM) and Human Resource Development (HRD). He also ran DAS/IDPM’s Senior Management Programme a continuing professional educational initiative targeting public servants who were moving on to ‘fast track’ careers. Ron pioneered DAS’s use of Outdoor Management Development and students and academic colleagues will remember abseiling and raft-building in the Peak District with Ron…in sun and rain!

Ron came to Manchester with vast experience from Malawi and Uganda. In both countries he ran university extension programmes that sought to take academic knowledge out to user communities in ways that would allow it to be practically applied to improving livelihoods and fostering economic and social development. Initially this was serving as a British colonial officer but later as a public servant in independent countries. This experience helped him readily fit into DAS’s pedagogical approach and its organisational culture. The courses he directed and taught on were continuing professional development programmes for serving civil servants and, over the years, he sought to raise the managerial capacities of thousands of individuals and hundreds of agencies. While he was happy to delve into theory, he was committed to ensuring that training remained practical and applied so that students, or ‘fellows’ as they were called in the 1970/1980s, could return to their ‘office’ with new practical skills and abilities.

Alongside his teaching Ron was also the ‘historian’ of DAS, IDPM and GDI recording the evolving institution’s biography and relating this to the changing global context. He published articles on the ways in which DAS/IDPM/GDI changed over the years examining its teaching and research and exploring its culture – a student-centred approach that looked to care for its ‘fellows’ and create a strong sense of organisational identity. The delightful evenings that Ron and Betty provided for students at their home were one way in which he (and Betty) sought to make students know that they were genuinely welcomed at Manchester.
DAS/IDPM’s many alumni will have their own fond memories of time with Ron, but we suspect that alongside the warm welcome at his home they will remember fieldwork with him – whether it was in Dublin or London or overseas.

Ron Clarke retired from the University in 1999. He moved to the Malvern Hills, closer to his children and enjoyed walking in the hills (we gave him walking poles at his retirement party), playing with his grandchildren and visits from colleagues who warmly remembered him despite the years passing. He maintained a keen interest in international development and for many years chaired the Development Education Committee for Worcestershire and Herefordshire encouraging school pupils to learn about development and think about ‘what’ they could contribute to supporting poorer people in distant lands.

We send our deepest sympathies to Betty and Ron’s four children and five grandchildren. ‘Many, many thanks Ron’, for all your commitment to this University and the energy and effort you put into teaching students, mentoring colleagues, and managing the Institute at a crucial time in its evolution.

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