Alan Prosser (deceased)

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Alan Prosser taught and researched in Physical Chemistry in UK before taking up an appointment at the University of New South Wales in 1970, thus returning to the country of his birth. Back in the 1950's Alan was experimenting with different teaching methods and subject contents so it is not surprising to learn he was a founding member of HERDSA, serving on the Executive in the mid 1970' s and 80's. 

Alan is well known as a person who championed the active role of the practicing teacher in HERDSA . He also persisted in trying to establish local branches of the society. He is a valuable mine of information about HERDSA and recently completed the task of compiling an index for HERDSA News which is available on the web site. For example for the subject article look up He is about to start on the task of indexing the conference proceedings!

Vale Alan Prosser,
 2002 Vol. 24 No. 2

Alan Prosser, a founding member of HERDSA, died on April 19 this year. Despite maintaining a physically active and healthy lifestyle throughout the years, he succumbed to cancer after a short period of illness.

He carried out his postgraduate research in the UK in the field of physical chemistry. He returned to Australia in 1970, the land of his birth, to take up an academic teaching position in extractive metallurgy at The University of New South Wales in 1970. He continued his academic career at UNSW until his retirement several years ago.

Alan was well known to most of us in HERDSA as a tireless worker who contributed in many ways to the Association, from its inception in 1973, until a short time before his death. In 1993 the value and distinction of his services to the association were recognized by the conferral of Honorary Life Membership. In addition to his scholarly endeavours in researching educational practice, his many contributions included serving on the HERDSA executive in the mid 70's and 80's; committee work and organization of Conferences and seminars in the Sydney region; signal assistance to Ernest Roe in the production of a 'history' of the HERD SA to mark the 21 st year of the Association; and completion of an index of all volumes of HERDSA News.

Less well known to many younger members was his pioneering work in two areas. At the time surrounding the founding of HERDSA in 1972-73, there was a divergence of views as to what kind of learned society we should be. A number of the founders were inclined towards a society modelled on the SRHE (as it then was) in the UK, with the membership consisting predominantly of those engaged professionally in research in higher education. Alan was a passionate and vocal advocate for a society, which would have, as its core membership, practicing teachers who were committed to improving teaching through innovation, evaluation, and research and development in their own educational practice. This view held the day, and commitment to this principle has shaped the growth and evolution of HERDSA since.

A second area which Alan pioneered was that of developing criteria and procedures for the recognition of teaching in promotion applications. The 80's is generally regarded as the decade in which procedures, criteria and guidelines were being developed and implemented to recognize and reward teaching. His work in this area was well ahead of its time. Immediately after joining UNSW, Alan became an active member of the University's Staff Association. He soon realised that guidelines and procedures for rewarding teaching were grossly inadequate, and, in his typical fashion, volunteered to set up a working party of the Staff Association to address this issue. In 1971 this led to his authoring of the seminal document, 'Report of the Education Committee of the UNSW Staff Association "Promotion Through Teaching" . The document was adopted as Staff Association policy in that same year, and throughout the decade became a major resource for subsequent developments in the production of policies, criteria and guidelines for recognizing teaching in promotion determinations.

Alan could be forthright during meetings in stating his disagreement on an issue, and offering a counter-view - his criticisms always motivated by an earnest desire to find ways to make our universities a better place in which to be, to learn, and to teach. To the many who knew him, Alan was a true friend, cheerful in disposition, and possessed of a wry, under-stated, sense of humour. To the membership of the Association at large, he will be remembered as a true champion of HERDSA and its mission. He y.,ill be sorely missed by all ofus.

This appreciation of Alan was contributed by Doug Magin, a former colleague at the University of New South Wales.