Brunel University

04/19/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/19/2024 03:03

Part of Brunel's fabric for six decades: Neil Turner, 1941–2024

Neil Turner, a former technical officer who was the longest-known serving staff member in the Brunel community, passed away peacefully on Saturday 30 March, aged 82, surrounded by his family.

He had held a range of roles at Brunel University London and at Acton Technical College, one of Brunel's predecessor institutions, over a period of more than 60 years, working beyond two official retirement dates.

The longevity of Neil's career, his enthusiasm for the sport and social life available at Brunel, and his long-standing involvement with the University and College Union all meant that he was a familiar face across campus and part of the fabric of the University.

Neil was born in Lancashire in 1941, and at the age of 18 moved from Blackburn to West London, attracted by the wealth of music, culture and sport available in the capital.

In 1962, he joined the Department of Chemistry at Acton Technical College. A few years later, Acton's Principal learnt that the application to create a university had been accepted, and organised a small impromptu party - a few bottles of wine and crisps from a local shop. Neil and his colleagues celebrated the conception of what would in 1966 become Brunel University by virtue of a Royal Charter.

After spells at Hillingdon Borough Council and Queen Elizabeth College between 1967 and 1979, Neil returned to Brunel and held various roles in the Department of Chemistry, the Computer Centre and the Department of Mathematics.

He was a strong advocate of a work/life balance, and spent a good amount of his free time playing sport, socially and competitively, using the University's facilities. A natural at racket sports, Neil played squash, badminton and tennis, but also enjoyed climbing and athletics, winning medals in the over-40s category in the annual 'Brunel dash' around the campus's perimeter road.

Neil originally planned to leave Brunel on 30 August 2006, having reached 65 earlier that year - what was then compulsory retirement age for a man. However, the law was set to change the very next day, so that employees could request to work beyond state pension age. Relishing that opportunity, and not wanting a day here or there to prevent it, Neil wrote to the then HR Director, asking him to support the spirit of the new rules and agree that Neil should remain employed. The response was positive, and Neil worked full time at Brunel until 2012.

After that, Neil remained employed through a sequence of hourly paid contracts, and continued to be involved in the social life of the Department of Mathematics, helping to organise social events each year.

Over his decades at the University, Neil filled many roles at the Brunel branch of the University and College Union. He had been the Health & Safety Officer, Secretary, Treasurer and Caseworker, and at the time of his official retirement party in 2019, his fellow UCU members praised his 'dedication, skills, forethought, support and expertise', adding that 'for some of our lean years, [Neil was] the one who, for all intents and purposes, single-handedly held the Branch together'.

So did Neil actually retire in 2019, a full 40 years after re-joining? Well, his occasional contracts continued, most recently as the administrative assistant for the Senior Common Room - a space for informal meetings, catch-ups, lunches and cuppas with colleagues, which was revamped last year. And despite his failing health, he still visited campus up to the week before his passing.

Professor Paresh Date, joint Head of the Department of Mathematics at Brunel, said: "Neil's dedication to his job, his enthusiasm in the organisation of social events and his selfless support of his colleagues as a union official will be much missed."

Neil is survived by his sons Alex and Ellis, his grandsons Austin and Eddie, his long-time partner Ann and his ex-wife.

His funeral will be held on Friday 10 May at 1:30pm, at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip. White flowers are welcome.

His family is organising a wake on campus from 3pm that day: a special afternoon and evening of food and music, a small exhibition and story-telling - right in the centre of Neil's universe. They request that any photos colleagues and friends have of Neil are added to this folder for the exhibition's photo stream.

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations +44 (0)1895 268821
[email protected]