Oct 25 2018

Marion O’Brien

Marion O'Brien

Marion O’Brien

It is with enormous sadness that we report the sudden death of Marion O’Brien on 21 October, who worked for the School for 33 years until 2010.

She supported academics and the Convenor of the Economics Department from 1976-84, then worked as Manager of the Centre for Labour Economics and later for Richard Layard and John Van Reenen at the Centre for Economic Performance.

Marion was a truly exceptional human being who gave everything of herself to support others.

Her wisdom, wit, warmth and selfless enthusiasm will be remembered by the many generations of academics, students, and international visitors to the School whose projects and plans she enabled and whose lives she touched in unforgettable ways.

Nigel Rogers, Centre for Economic Performance


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Aug 13 2018

Vic Harvey

Vic Harvey

Vic Harvey

Vic Harvey, who died on the 13 July aged 83, was a dedicated servant of the School over many years. No-one was more loyal. His period of service lasted from 1983 until his retirement in 2002. Vic performed a whole range of duties in the relation to the Director, Secretary and other leading members of LSE over that period, and was utterly dedicated to the institution. He worked with three Directors in total over the course of their tenures – IG Patel, John Ashworth and Anthony Giddens.

Among his other tasks, he was the driver of the School car and frequently met and picked up distinguished visitors from airports and railway stations. Those he ferried to and forth included Desmond Tutu, George Soros and Henry Kissinger, among many other world figures. His calm presence was extremely soothing when the passenger was fretting about his or her speech, or frazzled by travelling.

Vic frequently had to stay up well into the early hours of the morning to ferry people from School events, but did so with great willingness and calm. He was normally back on duty early the next day too. He always had the loyal support of his wife, Jackie, who would be there to greet him no matter what unearthly time of night, or even early morning, he might return from some School job or other.

He carried out a range of other tasks around the School to help out the porters and other staff. He could turn his hand to almost anything – something unsurprising given the range of his earlier career.  He had a diverse life indeed prior to joining LSE. Among other roles he was a paratrooper in Cyprus, during the period of conflict there involving British troops, and worked as an operator on large cranes. He was a commanding figure physically – tall, well-built and also very fit, at least until illness overtook him in his later years. He would often step in when a lesser mortal was struggling with a particular task that involved heavy lifting. He occasionally would be called upon to intervene if an unwanted or unwelcome intruder had got into the School, such as on occasions when there were break-ins to the offices.

Vic was totally trustworthy and reliable and always there when needed. He was a ‘presence’ around the School – known to very many people on the campus because of his visibility in the various roles he carried out. He had a quietly devilish sense of humour, ranging from gentle irony to whimsy. Never one to push himself forward, but always available when needed, Vic was an engaging, friendly and easy-to-approach individual, with absolutely no edge or attitude. He was a marvelous and dedicated servant of LSE and will be long remembered by everyone who knew him at the School.

Anthony Giddens and Christine Challis

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Jul 18 2018

Dr John Lane


We regret to announce the death of Dr John Lane, who passed away in Singapore earlier this year.

Dr John Lane

Dr John Lane

John gained his PhD at Stanford University, and joined the LSE Department of Economics as a lecturer in 1971. He also held visiting appointments at Wisconsin University, Yale University, the State University of New York, the University of California at San Diego, Queen’s University Canada, and the New Economic School in Moscow.

John taught mathematical economics, econometrics, and general equilibrium theory. His early research interests were in the areas of technological change, optimal growth theory and the economics of exhaustible resources. Later, he worked on health economics, particularly the economics of uncertainty as applied to medical decision making. His work was published in the International Economic Review, the Review of Economic Studies and Econometrica, amongst others.

John retired from the LSE in September 2008, and relocated to Singapore, where he joined the Nanyang Technological University, teaching economic analysis, taxation and fiscal reform, labour and education policy, and applied mathematical economics in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. More recently, he taught on the Global Master of Finance Degree at Singapore Management University.

He continued to be engaged in the London University external (international) programme with particular reference to South East Asia, regularly returning to London to act as an external examiner.

In response to the sad news, Professor John Sutton said: “John was a wonderful colleague, invariably cheerful, with a keen sense of humour and never without a story to tell…it was always a joy to see him on his continuing summer visits, and all his old friends in the department will greatly miss seeing him approach along the corridor with that inimitable smile of recognition.”

July 2018


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May 13 2018

Dame Tessa Jowell, Professor in Practice

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Dame Tessa Jowell, June 2015

It is with great sadness that we learnt of Tessa Jowell’s death. Tessa was Professor in Practice at LSE Cities and the Department of Government and contributed with energy and passion to our programmes.

She was most recently at the School in December 2017, reflecting with master’s students on the importance of leadership. Apart from her commitment to public life, Tessa recognised how critical it is to work with young people to improve their life chances, everywhere from young women in India to school-kids in deprived areas of south London. We will miss her enthusiasm, commitment and belief in public service.

Professor Ricky Burdett, Director of LSE Cities


Tessa Jowell had been a leading figure in London government since the early 1970s, when she first became a Labour member of Camden Council (in 1971) before going on to chair the authority’s social services committee from 1973.  In the late 1970s, she stood for Parliament in Ilford North before being elected MP for Dulwich (subsequently Dulwich and West Norwood) from 1992 to 2015.  She was also a leading contender for the Labour nomination to be Mayor of London in 2015.

In Parliament, Tessa was involved in select committees before Labour took office in 1997.  Thereafter she held a series of ministerial posts, culminating in her appointment as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and then Olympics minister.  London 2012 might never have happened were it not for Tessa Jowell’s empowering optimism, working alongside mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

I was a member of the Lambeth and Southwark Childcare Commission she chaired in 2014-15.  The committee typically held its meetings in children’s centres and community centres, reflecting Tessa’s desire to talk to those most closely affected by local services for children.  Her experience at the neighbourhood level, in Parliament and in the internationally-focused effort to win the Olympics was remarkable.

During the last year, she used her position in the House of Lords to make the case for access to innovative treatments for cancer.  Downing Street has announced that funding for brain cancer research will be doubled as a response to Tessa Jowell’s final campaign.

Tessa was simultaneously delicate and powerful, empathetic yet determined.  In an era of aggressive political discourse, she remained enthusiastic to work across party lines to achieve outcomes which would improve the lives of people, particularly children, rendered powerless by the complex machinery of government.

Professor Tony Travers, LSE Department of Government 

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Apr 12 2018

Peter Dawson

Peter Dawson

Peter Dawson

It is very sad to hear about the passing of Peter Dawson, a lecturer in the Department of Government from 1964 to 1994. His teaching focused in particular in the area of Public Administration with particular emphasis on development administration.

I was his tutee (as it was then called) in my first year as an undergraduate student. This was also his final year in the Department. Peter has shaped my outlook on studying at LSE ever since the first meeting in  his office in Lincoln Chambers. In those days, initial appointments were made by postcard to be found in the departmental pigeon holes (those tutees who didn’t make it past the Three Tuns to check their mail received a letter from Peter to their parental home).

I approached the first meeting with considerable trepidation: confused by Alan Beattie’s discussions about the powers of the Prime Minister and in awe of Janet Coleman’s Plato. I was soon put in my place. Pointing out that he was wearing an imaginary dog collar, Peter told me that being at LSE was an honour not to be thrown away by engaging with silly pursuits such as sports. To ensure I kept up my library attendance record, I was given the task to write an essay on ‘Does the UK need a written constitution?’ This essay – delivered in handwriting a few weeks later – was dissected, if not taken apart, word by word; although I remained unsure how strong the disapproval of my rallying call for a written constitution actually was. I was then let off writing further essays – largely because of some decent grade awarded by Matt Matravers on an essay on Cicero. I will also not forget his handwritten note expressing disappointment at my first year exam grades.

If these encounters put me in the right place, then Peter also offered me some guidance later on. A few years into his retirement, we met on the connecting bridge between East and Old Building. I had just started my PhD and his comment was that my next few years would be ‘like being a monk, just without the fun’.

We last talked during George Jones’ memorial service last year and it was a delight to meet after many years. My deepest condolences to his wife Jane and his family.

Professor Martin Lodge, Department of Government


Peter Dawson was a former UK colonial administrator and he had a close knowledge of the practicalities of government and public service delivery in developing countries, and a keen interest in their contemporary modernization processes. He was invariably a wonderfully cheerful and encouraging colleague in meetings, seminars and social events, with a can-do approach to solving problems. He was zealous on behalf of student care and maintaining traditional academic standards, and resilient in the face of the many adverse (‘neo-liberal’) changes in academic life since the 1980s. An active member of the department even after his retirement, he will be much missed by colleagues who knew him, and by his many former students.

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Department of Government

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Feb 1 2018

Vic Finnigan, former LSE Head Porter


It is with great sadness that LSE announces the death of Vic Finnigan. Vic retired from LSE in 2014 as Head Porter after 25 years of service.

Two of Vic’s collegues share their memories of Vic. If you would like to join them, please add a comment to the post.



At Vic’s Leaving Do, I said to those assembled:

“I think you would all agree Vic is one of those people who you simply won’t forget. I would describe him as a rough diamond and one cheeky bleeder. You and your lads do a tough job in all weathers, with good humour and are vital to the smooth functioning of the School and it is because of this, you generate genuine respect and affection.”

And yes mate (that’s how he referred to men and woman alike!) you will indeed be fondly remembered by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing you.

Julian Robinson, Director of Estates Division


Having spent 25 years at LSE, Vic was part of the furniture, he knew everything and everyone. Like me, I’m sure there are many of you that enjoyed listening to his stories; and boy did he know how to tell one! He was the go-to man to get stuff done and would never pass you by without stopping and saying hello (usually with a fag hanging out of his mouth!)

Mate! you will be missed, you were one of a kind. There is only one way to describe Vic – A legend!

Francesca Ruscoe, Estates Division

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Jan 12 2018

Emeritus Professor Ragnar Norberg

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It is with great sadness that we announce Ragnar Norberg, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at LSE, passed away on the 18 December 2017. Professor Norberg is one of the most influential academics working on both insurance and financial mathematics.

Ragnar started his long career at the University of Oslo and then at the Laboratory of Actuarial Mathematics at the University of Copenhagen. He joined LSE as a professor in the Department of Statistics in the spring of 2000 and stayed with us until his retirement in 2010. He finished his career as Chercheur (Research Officer) at Institut de Science Financi`ere et d’Assurances (ISFA) in Lyon, probably the biggest department of its kind in Europe.

He was a visitor at many prestigious institutions around the world. Moscow State University in the old Soviet Union (Ragnar spoke many languages including Russian), ETH Zurich, the University of Manheim,  The University of Stanford and the University of Melbourne. He also engaged in regulatory work serving as an advisor for the Norwegian Insurance Council. Ragnar regarded a paper that he produced for them as the best in his career and maintained that he learned  more in a year there than he learned during his whole academic career. He was a member of Actuarial Socities in Norway, Denmark, Italy and the UK.

During his time at LSE, he contributed enormously to the rapid expansion of the Department of Statistics by establishing the Risk and Stochastics group (now called the Probability in Finance and Insurance group and is the largest in the department) and starting a new MSc programme spanning the interface between Actuarial and Financial Mathematics.

He enjoyed teaching and he had his own style which was based on challenging the students. He turned his office hours into mini-seminars and we fondly remember the long queues of students waiting to pick his brains outside his room. Ragnar’s contribution was not just the large number of papers and books he wrote and edited but also a unique way of thinking that influenced  colleagues and students. This extract is from the Festschrift in a forthcoming book and is in Ragnar’s own words and demonstrates this thinking:

Philosophy and bird watch in finance. “In 2012 ISFA organized a conference on management of financial risk. There was an invited talk on the Black Swan, a lot of talks on how to improve market models, but no talks on how to improve the market. The organizers had been incautious enough to invite my participation in a round table discussion at the end of the conference. I said what I thought and ended with an allegory: “Maybe there are black birds out there that we haven’t seen, but to sit wool-gathering over their possible existence is self-delusion. Instead we should analyze and act upon what we have seen. There are black birds that we know all too well (crows, ravens and vultures feeding on defenceless small animals and on carcasses), and action is needed to cull them. But, alas, there are white birds (geese infamous for their credulity), and there and black and white birds (ostriches burying their heads in the sand), and they do little to improve the quality of bird life. The philosophers have only etc.” By registered sound level and duration of the applause, my 5 minutes intervention was the best received contribution to the conference. Why? I do not think it was just because I presented in a kind of French (the do-as-the-Romans trick), which I did without any ulterior motive (it was a no nonsense Conference Francophone). What I do think is that the audience didn’t think that mathematical and philosophical thinking alone can bring cosmos to the chaos of the deregulated financial markets.”

Professor Angelos Dassios, Department of Statistics

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Jan 9 2018

Professor in Practice Peter Sutherland, Chair of LSE Court and Council 2008-2015


Professor in Practice Peter Sutherland, Chair of LSE Court and Council 2008-2015Peter was a big man in every way. He had strong views which he expressed with robust eloquence, he was incredibly quick to pick up sloppy thinking and was always intellectually challenging.

However, what I will remember most about him is his generosity, kindness, compassion and charm. At a somewhat difficult time for the School when I became Interim Director he was always available, generously giving advice, helping us deal with inevitable media interest and providing much needed support to all members of the Director’s Management team.

Despite his many other commitments and interests Peter always made time for LSE. He passionately believed in the importance of education, and the need for open debate over potentially contentious issues; the international character of LSE’s staff and students chimed well with his own strongly held views on the importance of international cooperation.

When Chairing LSE’s Council and Court, Peter could be combative but always in a good humoured way and with the ability to rapidly read the mood of the meeting and defuse tensions. He was a past master at getting difficult decisions made while allowing everyone to have their say. In so many ways Peter was an ideal Chairman, he carefully scrutinized executive decisions and actions, supporting them where properly justified and appropriate but challenging them when greater thought and clarity was required.

Peter was a wonderful man to be with, full of fascinating tales and great wit, and with the ability to make everyone feel that they had something important to contribute. It was a privilege to know him and he will be sorely missed.

Sincere condolences to Maruja his wife and their three children.

Professor Dame Judith Rees
Vice-Chair, Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment 
Interim Director 2011-2012

It was with great sadness that we learned that Peter Sutherland passed away on Sunday 7 January in Dublin, aged 71. Peter was an extraordinary and inspirational man who was a great friend of the School, and served as the Chair of Council and Court from 2008 to 2015.

Peter had an enormously distinguished career before taking on the this role at LSE. He was appointed as the youngest ever Attorney General of Ireland in 1981, and became the youngest  European Commissioner in 1985 (during which time he implemented the establishment of the ERASMUS scheme). In 1993 he became the first Director General of the GATT/World Trade Organisation, and in 2006 became the special representative of the United Nations on migration issues. He was an honorary  ambassador of the UN industrial development organisation, the Chairman of BP and of Goldman Sachs International and the Financial Adviser to the Vatican. He was appointed Honorary Knight Commander of St Michael and St George in 2004 for services to industry.

Handling the LSE council, Court and Council committees was a new experience for Peter but one in which he took on with enthusiasm, in fact with relish, as he had done with so many challenges before in very different working environments. He wanted to know what made LSE tick and genuinely welcomed the input from all the members of Council, and was as interested in the concerns of the student representatives as much as the views of academics and lay governors. Despite being bemused at times by the issues which aroused passions amongst academics and students, he was always prepared to listen patiently, if occasionally with poorly-concealed amazement, to all opinions and was then able to bring Council to agreement on sometimes difficult and sensitive issues. He was unfailingly supportive  to all the members of the Director’s Management Team and took a genuine interest in all aspects of our work, from student-centred initiatives like the Faith Centre and PhD scholarships to significant new research and financial initiatives. Above all, he showed absolute dedication to the School by devoting an enormous amount of time and energy to steer it through very difficult times.

Peter had an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a formidable intellect. He enjoyed being associated with LSE because he relished academic debate. He had a genuine interest in the academic work being undertaken at the School and made contacts with colleagues across many different disciplines. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at LSE in 2015 in recognition of his exceptional contribution to EU and world affairs. He had a passionate interest in the EU and in migration within the EU and globally. He has left a permanent significant legacy to the School through his establishment of the Sutherland Chair in European institutions held in the European Institute.  After he stepped down as Chair he also retained his connection with LSE by becoming  Professor in Practice  in the Institute of Global Affairs and became the leading figure in the Institute’s Global Migration Initiative. He was also wonderful company with an endless supply of good stories and a gift for the perfect punch line. Peter seems to have met everyone worth meeting during an extraordinary career, and had an insightful comment or humorous anecdote to impart about all of them.

It was a privilege to work with Peter and a joy to be in his company. He truly was one of a kind. The School is greatly in his debt and we will miss him sorely.

Professor Janet Hartley
Department of International History
Pro Director Teaching and Learning 2007-12

If you would like to post a tribute to Peter Sutherland, leave your condolences or share any memories you have of him, please comment on this post.

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Nov 2 2017

Emeritus Professor Robert Estall


Professor Robert Estall

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Professor Robert Estall, Professor of Geography at LSE until 1989, and an Emeritus Professor thereafter. He was also an undergraduate student at LSE from 1952-55 and completed his PhD here in 1964.

I was extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Emeritus Professor Robert Estall. He was a distinguished geographer, yet always modest.  As a person, he was full of kindness, character and integrity, and I will remember him fondly.

Our paths crossed more than once. Together with the late Professor Emrys Jones he interviewed me for the undergraduate degree in Geography in 1976 when I was 17 years old. The interview was so relaxed and enjoyable that I emerged feeling that I was walking on air! I was subsequently given a conditional offer of two Es at A level – an indication that Profs Estall and Jones had warmed to me, as much as I had to them! I was sorely tempted to take the LSE place but under pressure of parents and teachers, I opted instead to read my undergraduate programme at King’s College Cambridge. However, I was pulled back to LSE, partly because of my recollection of that initial encounter, as well as LSE’s rapidly-emerging distinction as a place to do groundbreaking research in geography in a context of social science interdisciplinarity.  

So, I returned to LSE in 1988 as a young lecturer (what would now be ‘assistant professor’),  following a PhD at UCL, a post-doctoral year in Mexico funded by a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship, and and 18 months as a lecturer in Geography and Latin American Studies at Liverpool.  

As soon as I had been appointed, Professor Estall, together with Professor Bob Bennett, then Head of Department, reached out to ask if I could contribute to the book they were editing on Global Change and Challenge: Geography for the 1990s, which was eventually published by Routledge in 1991, which was to showcase the research of a small contingent of LSE geographers at the time. In the end, my over-long first chapter draft ended up becoming two chapters, which was a real bonus for someone with a limited emerging publication track record! Prof Estall was a patient and judicious editor, meeting with me to discuss and finesse the contributions, and being unfailingly encouraging about my efforts.

I was sorry when he retired officially in 1989, but enjoyed seeing him on several occasions subsequently. He always showed such interest in young scholars, and his passing, like that of the late Professors Michael Wise and Derek Diamond, leaves me feeling bereft of a generation of senior academics who worked well into their retirement to support the Department and the discipline of Geography more widely.  He is firmly locked into my treasure trove of professional and personal memories, and my thoughts go out to the family and friends he has left behind.


Professor Sylvia Chant FRSA FAcSS

Professor of Development Geography

Director, MSc Urbanisation and Development


If you would like to post a tribute to Professor Estall; leave your condolences or share any memories you have of him please comment on this post.

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Oct 2 2017

Dr Mayling Birney


Dr Mayling BirneyThe sudden loss of our colleague and friend Dr Mayling Birney comes as a great shock to everyone in the Department of International Development, and across LSE. Mayling was a cherished colleague and friend, a great teacher, and always a positive and uplifting spirit in everything she did.

Mayling joined the Department of International Development in 2010, after completing an MSc Economics at LSE, a PhD in Political Science at Yale, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton. She was co-director of the MSc in Development Management, one of the Department’s cornerstone programmes. From her first day with us, Mayling threw herself into her teaching with gusto, incorporating her immense knowledge of the Chinese experience into the empirical and theoretical core of the course. Over time, she reconceptualised the government and governance modules away from a static, sectoral analysis, in favour of a dynamic approach focusing on institutional transformation. She quickly became a pillar of the programme, much sought after for her insight, her excellent judgement, and the warmth and grace with which she received students and colleagues alike.

Mayling was an accomplished scholar of the comparative politics of China. Her work examined local politics in China, as well as the politics of decentralization and corruption. Her principal area of research regarded the relationship between national and local politicians in China, in particular the way that national officials used local elections to control provincial authorities, and how local officials responded to the mandates of national party-state officials. In her book manuscript, The Rule of Mandates: Governing and Misgoverning China, which she was in the final steps of completing at the time of her death, Mayling argued that in lieu of a “rule of man” or “rule of law,” China has a “rule of mandates” that sets priorities for officials at all levels of government. Not only does Mayling’s research reveal how the “rule of mandates” functions, but she also demonstrates its distinct consequences for economic development and political stability in China.

We were fortunate to have Mayling with us, and her death is a tragic loss for the Department of International Development and LSE.

Our thoughts are with Mayling’s family, and her many friends and colleagues in Europe, North America, and Asia. We will miss Mayling dearly.

Professor Ken Shadlen 
Head of Department of International Development

Professor Jean-Paul Faguet
Professor of the Political Economy of Development, Department of International Development 

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