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Walter Laing MacDonald Perry


(Lord Perry of Walton)

1921 - 2003

Academic, who became the first head of the Open University. Born in Dundee, Perry was educated at Morgan Academy in the city, Ayr Academy and the Dundee High School. He graduated from St. Andrews in 1943, with a degree in pharmacology. He worked in Dundee Royal Infirmary before becoming a Colonial Medical Officer in Nigeria. Entering a research career in 1947, he became an internationally renowned expert on polio, for which he was honoured with an OBE in 1957. He was appointed Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh in 1958, and also served that institution as Dean of Medicine and Vice Principal. In 1970, he accepted the post as founding Vice Chancellor of the innovative Open University (OU), the brain-child of labour politician Jennie Lee (1904-88). He went on to provide imaginative academic leadership, making that institution credible in the face of many sceptics.

Perry was knighted in 1974 and created a Life Peer in 1979. On his retirement from the OU in 1981, he became an active member of the House of Lords, rising to serve as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat party in that chamber. Amongst his many other honours were honorary degrees from Dundee and Stirling Universities. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Perry died in London.


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