Dr Eric Ogilvie remembered at Waterside

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The career of an enterprising educationalist who helped create the foundations for what became the University of Northampton (UON) has been commemorated at Waterside.

Dr Eric Ogilvie, OBE was born in 1924 and served with the Royal Navy in 1943 as a radar engineer, before training to become a teacher in 1946.

Dr Ogilvie – who died in 2019 at the age of 94 – began his educational career in the town when he became the Principal of Northampton College of Education in 1972. His earliest official duties there included welcoming Margaret Thatcher – then Education and Science Secretary, later the UK’s first woman Prime Minister – to its opening.

Northampton College of Education in turn became Nene College in 1975 of which Dr Ogilvie was its first Director. Nene was one of the first of the mixed economy group of colleges which offered courses from technician to postgraduate level.

In 1999 Nene College became University College Northampton and in 2005 UCN was awarded full university status and research degree awarding powers, becoming the University of Northampton.

Until his retirement in 1989 – the same year he was appointed OBE for services to education – Dr Ogilvie and his wife Wyn lived in the Principal’s/Director’s House located at what was Park Campus on Boughton Green Road.

At a ceremony held last week, Dr Ogilvie’s life and achievements were commemorated in the University’s Memorial Garden* at UON’s new home, Waterside Campus.

A Hazel tree – traditionally held as a symbol of wisdom – has been planted in remembrance of Dr Ogilvie’s work and the ceremony was opened by UON Vice Chancellor Professor Nick Petford.

Professor Petford described Dr Ogilvie as “…a warm and kind man who had education embedded in him” and that he had played a fundamental part in the journey toward UON’s current status.

Richard Ogilvie, Dr Ogilvie’s son – pictured above with members of his family and Professor Petford – who followed his father into education becoming a primary school head teacher, said: “One thing about Dad’s and our family’s background is none of our ancestors, up until him, had ever been to university or worked in the education sector. Yet, he went on to become a gifted educationist and was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met or even heard about.

“The memorial garden is a wonderful concept and Dad would be greatly honoured to be part of it. As a family, we thank Professor Petford and the University for this and for organising the ceremony.

“My parents requested their ashes to be scattered in the sea, so as there are no gravestones it’s lovely for us to have a physical place to visit from time to time and say a little prayer and we’ll be sure to visit in future years.

“I’d also like to express my gratitude to my father’s many, former colleagues who attended. Their support during his years in Northampton helped shape his ambitions and the development of education in the town.”

*The Memorial Garden – which is open to members of the public – is located between the River Nene bridges on Nunn Mills Road, between the Avon Cosmetics building and Beckett’s Park.

It’s split into a communal reflective area with a circle of benches facing onto a central area of planting, and a wider arrangement of benches for more solitary contemplation.