Dr Tony Rich, who was an exemplary and popular Registrar at the University of Essex for 12 years until summer 2011, has died. Tony championed the professional development of non-academic staff in universities, and the role of the university in the social, economic and cultural life of its region.
Tony Rich was born in Norfolk in 1954 and studied history at the University of Manchester from 1974 to 1977, before obtaining his Postgraduate Certificate in Education. He completed his PhD in Manchester’s Government Department in 1983, researching the social, ethnic and regional factors in the development of Zimbabwean nationalist movements.
After a short spell working for the Longman Group, he joined the University of Warwick administration where he progressed to become Assistant Registrar. He moved via the University of Sheffield to the University of East Anglia, where he was Academic Registrar from 1991 to 1999.
On moving to the University of Essex as Registrar and Secretary, he was involved in overseeing the establishment of Essex’s first regional campus, through a merger with East 15 Acting School in Loughton.
His 12 years at Essex coincided with a period of significant growth and development, with Tony leading the way in developing key partnerships across the region. As a firm believer in the power of education to liberate minds, to open up opportunities and to change lives, he worked tirelessly to help widen opportunities to access higher education. He served as a Governor of Colchester Institute, helping to establish a productive validation partnership with Essex.
He played a pivotal role in developing Essex’s partnership with South Essex College and, subsequently, the University’s own Southend Campus, through fostering links with Southend Borough Council, funding agencies and organisations with an interest in the development of the Thames Gateway. He engaged with an even broader range of partners to help improve access to higher education in Suffolk, leading to the establishment, with the University of East Anglia, of University Campus Suffolk.
Tony also led the project to enhance Essex’s economic impact through the development of a research park at our Colchester Campus, the infrastructure of which was recently completed.
He served on Colchester‘s Local Strategic Partnership, and the group which brought the new contemporary art facility, firstsite, to Colchester. He strove to make Colchester a better place for its residents, while ensuring the University played a central role.
As Registrar, Tony undertook his role of leading the University’s administration with efficiency and effectiveness, as well as developing strong relationships with the Students’ Union to help improve the student experience.
He made a significant contribution the professional development of staff at Essex, through the Graduate Trainee Scheme, the senior management programme, and through his unswerving support for the Association of University Administrators (AUA), which included serving the maximum two terms on its Executive Committee.
He was well known and liked within the community of higher education senior administrators, chairing the 1994 Group of Registrars and the Southern Universities Management Service and contributing to the Association of Heads of University Administrators.
Tony was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Essex earlier this year, an event attended by senior higher education administrators from around the country.
Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, said: “Tony was admired and respected throughout the sector as an exemplary Registrar and Secretary, and he made an immense contribution both to the University and to the broader community. His lasting achievement has been to weave the University into the fabric of Colchester and Southend and to develop the University’s role as an influential participant in the life and work of the entire region.”
Tony left Essex in July 2011 to become Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at the University of Bristol, but took medical retirement after being diagnosed with incurable cancer. When the seriousness of his illness became known, University of Cambridge Registrary Dr Jonathan Nicholls, a friend from Dr Rich’s Warwick days, undertook to run the 2012 London Marathon, raising more than £15,000 for the University of Bristol’s Cancer Research Fund.
Tony died on 17 July 2012. He is survived by his wife Cheryl, sons Chris and Joe and daughter Hannah.
Dr Tony Rich's funeral takes place on Thursday 26 July at St. Leonard's Church, Lexden, Colchester, at 10.30am. A reception after the service will be held from 12.15pm at the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall on the University's Colchester Campus. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.