Roger Ainsworth (1951-2019)

St Catherine’s College is deeply saddened to share the news that the Master, Professor Roger Ainsworth, died on 23 February after a short battle with cancer.

Roger became Tutorial Fellow in Engineering at St Catherine’s in 1985, having worked for ten years in industry at Rolls-Royce and then at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, and became Master of the College in 2002. Prior to his time in industry, he studied as both an undergraduate and a graduate student at Jesus College, Oxford, where he became an Honorary Fellow in 2002.

Roger was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2004, in recognition of his work in the field of jet engine research, and in 2017 he became a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, a distinction which acknowledged his academic excellence in the subject of mechanical engineering. In honour of his work promoting the College’s connection with Denmark, Roger was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog by HM The Queen of Denmark in 2005.

Roger played a number of major roles in the University. In his capacity as Pro-Vice-Chancellor from 2003 onwards, he served as chair of the University’s Building Committee, where, over 13 years, he oversaw a £750 million building programme. But he always felt that the most important part of his work – and the aspect that he enjoyed the most – was interacting with and encouraging our students.

During his time as Master, Roger presided over an immense amount of change at St Catherine’s, with thousands of students coming and going during his tenure. Roger’s dedication and commitment to ensuring that St Catherine’s remains a welcoming college and a remarkable environment in which to live, work, and study was extraordinary. He will be sorely missed by students and colleagues alike.

The Vice Master, Professor Penny Handford, said: “The entire College community is deeply indebted to Roger for his loyal friendship, his outstanding leadership, and his immense contribution to the advancement of St Catherine’s College. He will be greatly missed, and we shall continue to honour the tremendous impact he has had on our community. In the meantime, as Roger himself said, the College must march forward together.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said: “Oxford has lost its longest serving head of house, a deeply committed University citizen and a widely respected academic. The speed of Roger’s illness and death has caused a deep sense of shock and sadness across the university. Roger’s wife, Sarah, and children Tom, Emily and Harriet are very much in our thoughts.”

Photo credit: Andre Camara