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Professor Harold Hankins CBE FREng

Professor Harold Hankins, who died 2 May 2009 aged 78, was Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UMIST from 1984 to 1995. During his time at the helm of the University he stabilised its finances, substantially increasing its annual research income from £2.5 million to nearly £18 million. He also oversaw an ambitious programme of structural expansion.

Born on 18 October 1930, Harold attended Crewe Grammar School and became an apprentice with The London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1947. He studied electrical engineering on a part-time basis at Manchester College of Technology (later to become UMIST). After graduating in 1955 he married Kathleen, who survives him, and took up a post at the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Co. Ltd. Following a successful spell as Assistant Chief Engineer, Harold returned to academia as a Lecturer at UMIST and embarked on a PhD. After completing his doctorate he was appointed a Senior Lecturer and then Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1974.

From 1979 to 1981 Harold was Vice-Principal of UMIST, and his pioneering vision for the University made him the obvious choice to succeed Professor R N Haszeldine as Principal in 1983. Under his watchful eye UMIST grew in both international prominence and physical size - Harold commissioned the Joule Library and the Weston Centre, and invested in several new state-of-the-art student accommodation blocks. Over a short period of time UMIST was awarded a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement, The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, and two Prince of Wales Awards for Innovation.

Throughout his tenure, Harold maintained his research interests, collecting ten separate patents over the years for his work with computer visual display systems. He was made a CBE for services in higher education in 1996 and received Honorary Doctorates from UMIST, The University of Manchester and the Open University. He was also awarded the prestigious Reginald Mitchell Gold Medal by the Association of Engineers in 1990 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1993.

As Principal of UMIST, Harold entertained many university groups at his house in Glossop, and also found the time to sit on the board of governors of both South Cheshire College and Cheadle Hulme School. He cultivated a keen interest in military history, and in 2007 he made a substantial contribution to A Portrait of The University of Manchester – a commemorative book telling the story of UMIST and The Victoria University of Manchester.

Harold (after whom the Harold Hankins Building in the Manchester Business School was named) will be sorely missed.   His intellectual energy and clear-sightedness made him a true friend of UMIST, as well as a superb Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

He is survived by his wife Kathleen and three sons Anthony, Matthew and Nicholas.