Professor Donald Leach was instrumental in success of QMC

Former principal and vice patron of Queen Margaret College, Professor Donald Leach CBE has died, aged 77.

Professor Donald Leach enjoyed a long career which spanned academic life, politics, health and business.

His enduring legacy was to lead the then Queen Margaret College from 1985 to 1996 and secure its independence as a college of higher education – an action which received its ultimate accolade in the establishment of Queen Margaret University in 2007.

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Prof Leach was born in 1931 and brought up in the south of England, where he attended John Ruskin Grammar School in Croydon.

He left school at 16 but, under National Service rules and with a job in a laboratory, studied by day-release for a BSc at the University of London.

In 1951 his employer, the Expanded Rubber Company, sent him to run a pilot plant in their Dundee factory.

There he met June Reid, who typed his reports, and they were engaged just before he joined the RAF later that year to become a Pilot Officer Navigator, while continuing to study mathematics.

After National Service, he joined the British Jute Trade Research Association and through day-release at Dundee Technical College (now Abertay University) he graduated with an honours BSc degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1955 which enabled him to become a visiting lecturer in mathematics at the Tech.

His political interests found an outlet in the Liberal Party and he became an active politician, standing for election in West Edinburgh in 1959 and then for East Fife in the 1961 by-election.

In 1964 he left the Liberals and joined the Labour Party, where he was appointed to the Lothian Health Board.

In 1965 he moved to Edinburgh and joined Napier Technical College as a lecturer in mathematics. Within two years, he had been promoted twice to become head of the department of mathematics and computing.

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He was one of the key group in Napier who designed and piloted the first Napier degree – the innovative BSc science with industrial studies.

In 1985, Prof Leach was appointed as principal of Queen Margaret College – making him the first male principal of a predominantly female institution – where he set about raising its profile.

Prof Leach served on many higher education committees and professional bodies, and also joined both the Institute of Directors and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce in his tireless quest to make Queen Margaret College better known.

Prof Leach went on to become President of Leith Chamber of Commerce, and he was also made a High Constable of the Port of Leith.

By the time of his retiral in 1996, he was awarded both an honorary professorship and a CBE in recognition of his part in the development of QMC.

In 2004 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education by Queen Margaret University College.

His wife, June, died suddenly shortly after his retirement but Prof Leach found a new partner in Marilyn Jeffcoat and they were married in 1999.

He is survived by his second wife, Marilyn, three children, five grandchildren, five stepsons and two step grandchildren.