Sir (William) Kerr Fraser


1929 - 2018

Civil servant and academic administrator. Born in Glasgow, the son of an insurance inspector, Fraser was educated at Eastwood Senior Secondary School and, guided by his determined mother, Rachel, became the first in his family to enter tertiary education when he matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1946. There he became President of the Students Representative Council and was able to travel to China, representing British students, shortly after the Communist Revolution and during the Korean War. Following National Service, he joined the civil service in 1955, working in the Scottish Office and rising to become Under-Secretary at the Scottish Home and Health Department, then Deputy Secretary (1975), and finally Permanent Secretary (1978-88), head of the civil service in Scotland. His main achievements were the re-organisation of local government in 1975 and the framing of a devolution settlement which failed to gain the support of voters in the 1979 referendum. He went on to run the University of Glasgow as Principal and Vice-Chancellor (1988-95) and then become is Chanecellor (ceremonial head) between 1996 and 2006. The Fraser Building is named in his honour. He retired with his wife to Gifford in East Lothian.

Fraser served as Governor of the Caledonian Research Foundation (1990-99) and Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1995 - 2000). He was awarded as CB (1978), knighted the following year as KCB and awarded a GCB in 1994. Fraser was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1985, as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (1992), and of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (1995). He was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Glasgow (1982), University of Strathclyde (1991), University of Aberdeen (1993) and the University of Edinburgh (1995).


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