2011 Obituary: Professor Jim Allen

Professor Jim Allen will be remembered, formally, and fondly, as a highly successful Provost of the University of Ulster (UU)’s Magee campus at Londonderry, and a dedicated Pro Vice Chancellor who was the primary driver of the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland  (SINI) at its Jordanstown campus. Informally, he will be remembered as a wonderful colleague, inspirational teacher, and friend who stayed true to his core academic values.

Professor Allen was born on 25 November 1951 in Londonderry. He attended Foyle and Londonderry College, then Queen’s University Belfast, where he graduated in physiology, and completed a PhD in the same subject. He was appointed to a lectureship in physiology and biochemistry at the Ulster Polytechnic in 1978. Following the merger between the Polytechnic and the New University of Ulster to form UU in 1984, he played a leading part in biomedical sciences teaching and research, becoming Director of the Biomedical Sciences Research Centre in 1989. In 1995, he was appointed the first Head of the Faculty of Science Research Graduate School where he oversaw the introduction of the University’s first professional doctorate programme. He became Dean of the Faculty of Social and Health Sciences and Education in 1997. In 2001 he returned to his Derry roots as Provost of Magee, contemporaneously holding the position of Pro Vice Chancellor until March of this year when he retired due to deteriorating health. He died from cancer on 1 October.

As a proud ‘Derry man’ Jim Allen was a consistent supporter of the expansion of Magee and was involved directly in key developments there including the Foyle Arts Centre, the new Library,  Science Research Park, the Intelligent Systems Research Centre and the new halls of residence. He promoted a spirit of collegiality and harmony on the campus, as well as fostering excellent links with the local community.

 One of his greatest achievements was the development of SINI, a facility for elite athletes run by the University and the Sports Council for Northern Ireland. This major initiative would not have been possible without his perseverance, commitment and diplomacy.

Professor Allen was an excellent scientist who carried out internationally recognised research in smooth muscle physiology from the late 1970s to the 1990s. He was a member of the pioneering biomedical sciences research team which obtained, and sustained, the highest possible 5* rating in the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise. He subsequently used his scientific expertise to enhance research performance in rehabilitation science leading to the establishment of the Institute for Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Jim Allen rejoiced in the success of his colleagues and was always available to provide encouragement and effective support to students and staff at all levels. He will be greatly missed. He is survived by his wife Anne, daughters Jennie and Morgan and son Owen.

 Professor Gerry McKenna

October 2011.


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