Rob Ball, 1945-2012
A pioneering researcher in public-sector management who spent more than 40 years at the University of Stirling has died.
Rob Ball was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire on 12 September 1945. He studied physics at Balliol College, Oxford before taking an MSc at the University of Birmingham. He began his working life in management services, between 1967 and 1969, at the Milk Marketing Board.
It was at this point that Professor Ball moved to the University of Stirling, where he would spend the rest of his career. His first post was that of planning officer and then lecturer in management science, and he became a full-time lecturer in 1991. His activities included extensive consultancy work as director of industrial project services (1982-90), which stood him in good stead when he was named senior lecturer in 1991 and, later, appointed professor of public sector management in 1999.
Although he took on a number of important administrative roles within the university - as head of the department of management and organisation (1997-2000) and dean of the faculty of management (2000-2005) - Professor Ball also served as a local government councillor from 1978 to 1999 and acted as an adviser to the education committee of the Scottish Parliament.
Playing a pioneering role in establishing the study of public-sector management as a serious academic discipline, Professor Ball was involved in major research projects on the managerial and economic aspects of public-private partnerships, Community Health Partnerships in central Scotland, and the crucial issue of models for devolved funding in Scotland.
For his long-standing colleague John Bowers, professor of management science at Stirling Management School, Professor Ball was "a rigorous academic, an effective manager and an entertaining friend. He will be remembered as a well-respected leader who was highly supportive of his staff. The speeches he delivered when a member of staff left or retired were legendary. They were fine tributes, but he always found an excuse to include his famous jokes about Copernicus, Einstein, Mao Zedong and the research excellence framework."
"My abiding memory", Professor Bowers says, "is of him in the sports centre changing room where, wrapped only in a towel, he would hold forth on university politics or his latest public-sector research. You never knew where his mind would go next. Although he would sometimes fly off on strange tangents, many were full of great insight."
Professor Ball died on 30 September, after several months of illness during which he continued to see his PhD students every week. He is survived by his wife Moira and son Christopher.