Mike Reddin died April 25th, 2011
Over nearly 40 years he worked at LSE as student, researcher, lecturer and Senior Tutor to the General Course.
Many former students, colleagues and friends of Mike Reddin will be sad to learn of his death on 25 April 2011 at the age of 69.
After a childhood spent in the West Country - a gentle accent lasted through his life - Mike moved to London. He first studied social policy then worked as research assistant to Richard Titmuss, the first Professor of Social Administration at the LSE. He participated in the comparative study of blood donation in the UK and the USA, published in 1970 as The Gift Relationship. This study concluded unambiguously:
From our study of the private market in blood in the United States we have concluded that the commercialism of blood and donor relationships represses the expression of altruism, erodes the sense of community, lowers scientific standards, limits both personal and professional freedoms, sanctions the making of profits in
hospitals and clinical laboratories, legalizes hostility between doctor and patient, subjects critical areas of medicine to the laws of the marketplace, and places immense social costs on those least able to bear them.
In many ways a preference for altruism and fellowship over the perceived self-interest and commercialism of the market place characterised Mike’s approach to life. He joined the Department of Social Administration (later Social Policy) as a lecturer in 1967 and remained until 1994. He taught generations of students on the Diploma of Social Administration and on undergraduate and masters degrees, many of whom have gone on to key positions in the social service and social policy.
It was in the pastoral role that Mike excelled, caring for and supporting his students. In 1987 he became Senior Tutor to the General Course, a post he held until he resigned in 2001. In this role he recruited, welcomed, supported and defended literally thousands of General Course students, most spending an undergraduate year abroad at LSE. Some of these were worldly and wealthy, following Tony Giddens’s description of LSE as ‘Let’s See Europe.’ Many had never travelled from their home country, were baffled by the London housing market and the LSE degree structure, and felt lonely and lost. To them, Mike and his colleagues offered guidance, reassurance and friendship in abundance with an altruism and sense of fellowship that is remembered by very many around the globe. No respecter of authority, he saw his responsibility first and foremost to his students.
It was not only to students that Mike’s generosity of spirit was extended. It is remarkable now, in a time of teaching induction and Certificates in Higher Education, to compare the preparation of new lecturers to what it was years ago. Basically there was none, except a rather dull talk from the Director. It was assumed that some academic competence would automatically extend to a capacity to organise courses, book rooms, mark exams, write references and cope with students’ wide-ranging problems. On all these tasks, Mike selflessly dispensed knowledge and reassurance.
Throughout his career, Mike’s primary research interest was pensions. His distrust of the privileges and precariousness of occupational pension funds was once a voice in the wilderness; in the last few years it has become conventional wisdom. Mike contributed to a collection by left-wing LSE academics published in 1983 Socialism in a Cold Climate edited by John Griffith. He wrote that the state’s role in income maintenance should be extended, not contracted as was then occurring, “to let us, as workers and consumers, see that it is we who both generate and (ought to) dispose of the nation’s wealth.” He concluded:
Social policies can be more than tired responses to society’s distress signals, they can be social initiatives designed to solve problems and also to provoke, promote and make aware. In a cold climate they are necessities rather than luxuries.
We are once again in a cold climate and Mike’s conclusion is as relevant now as then.
Mike’s enthusiasm and energies were not confined to LSE. His family, his gardens, his running – he completed many marathons- and his singing all absorbed him -in retirement, as a basso profundo, he was in much demand on the choral scene. His fascination with the internet plugged him into innumerable networks – a fellowship of cyber space.
In his last years Mike returned to his roots in the Forest of Dean. At his funeral deep in the forest, his son, Marlon, flanked by Mike’s grandson, and his daughter Lucy, both spoke movingly of their father. Lucy sang Amazing Grace: some words from it sum up Mike’s impact on many, many students and friends who were starting out at LSE;
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
David Piachaud Professor of Social Administraton, LSE