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Durham University

Durham University News


Victor Watts 1938-2002: Master of Grey College, Durham

(2 January 2003)

Staff and students at the University of Durham have learned with great sadness of the sudden death of Mr Victor Watts, the Master of Grey College.

Mr Watts, a member of the English Studies Department, was one of the country's leading authorities on English place-names. He was honorary director of the English Place-Name Survey and had recently compiled the Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, to be published in August 2003. He had made a particular study of the origin and history of the place-names of County Durham.

Victor Watts joined the University of Durham 40 years ago as a Lecturer and was one of the longest serving members of staff. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1974.

His association with Grey College, one of the University's 15 residential student colleges, spanned many years. He became Senior Tutor and Vice-Master in 1984 and was appointed Master in 1989 - making his time in office the longest among the current college heads in the University. He had also held the post of Dean of Colleges 1999-2002.

Sir Kenneth Calman, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: "Members of the University have lost a dedicated colleague who served our academic and collegiate traditions with distinction. We are deeply saddened to hear of his death and our sympathy goes to his widow and all members of their families."

Mr Jonny Tew, the President of the Junior Common Room - the student body of Grey College, said in a tribute: "The Master had incredible integrity and we will all remember fondly his ability to communicate wonderfully with the student body, showing a real understanding of student feelings throughout."

Mr Watts, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was also a great enthusiast for the arts, and during his time at Grey, the college became a well-known venue for art exhibitions.

He was 64 and due to retire next summer. He leaves a widow, three children from his first marriage and two stepsons. His first wife, Dr Mary Watts, is a student welfare tutor at Grey College.
23 December 2002

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