Ian Beardwell’s sudden death in June 2002 cut short an increasingly distinguished career and dealt a cruel blow to his family, friends and colleagues. He will be remembered not only as an academic leader who made significant contributions to the development of human resource management as an area of study and professional practice, but also as a man of unfailing courtesy, kindness and generosity, who delighted in the pleasures of life.
Intellectually, Ian was a man of broad scholarship and keen insight who combined an enthusiasm for academic research with an interest in the practical world of affairs. This reflected the stimulus he received as an undergraduate and postgraduate student at the London School of Economics and his early career experiences as an industrial relations officer, first for the CBI and then for the Commission on Industrial Relations in the early 1970s.
His doctoral research examined industrial relations in the Civil Service and on the strength of this, he was invited to give formal written evidence to the Megaw Committee on Civil Service pay in 1981. He also undertook research into nurses’ pay for the National Union of Public Employees and was asked to give formal evidence to the Pay Review Body for Nursing in 1987.
He was one of the first British academics to develop research into industrial relations in non-union firms, winning an Economic and Social Research Council award with his colleague Ian McLoughlin in 1989. He led the team that developed questions on pay and pay determination for the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey and, together with David Buchanan, carried out research for the CIPD into patterns of entry into personnel management.
Ian’s credibility among academics and practitioners underpinned his main professional achievement, which was to have developed two of the best departments of industrial relations and human resource management in the polytechnic/new university sector. In 1985, 10 years after joining Kingston Polytechnic as a senior lecturer in industrial relations, he became the first head of the department of industrial relations and personnel management at Kingston’s newly established business school.
In this role he developed the study of personnel management at professional, post-experience level and established Kingston as an Institute of Personnel Management centre of excellence. He ensured that undergraduate business studies was developed as an area of applied social science, thus providing the subject with a robust intellectual foundation.
In 1989 Ian moved to Leicester Polytechnic (later to become De Montfort University), again to create and lead a department of human resource management in a new business school. Here he not only built his own department from scratch but also played a central role in developing the business school as a whole, taking on the role of acting dean (in addition to his responsibilities) until a permanent appointment could be made.
Under Ian’s leadership the department grew rapidly to become one of the largest in the country, attracting scholars with national and international reputations and gaining wide recognition for the quality of its teaching, scholarship and research.
Ian made important personal contributions to this through his scholarly activities as well as his leadership. One such was a project for a departmental textbook that Ian developed with his colleague, Len Holden. The result, Human Resource Management: A Contemporary Perspective, is a best-seller and about to enter its fourth edition. Another was an influential collection of essays published by Oxford University Press in 1996 under the title Contemporary Industrial Relations: A Critical Analysis. This included contributions from Ian himself, members of his department and from Cardiff Business School, Kings College London and the LSE.
Ian’s influence on the development of business studies in higher education extended beyond his own departments. From 1990 he was in wide demand as an external examiner and an external advisor to university validation panels. He was a member of the Association of Business Schools, served on the executive committee of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association and was a founding member of the editorial board of Human Resource Management Journal and a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Employment Studies.
He was invited to speak at conferences at home and as far abroad as New Zealand. He was a visiting professor at Montpellier and Paris universities. He was also a subject specialist reviewer for the Quality Assessment Agency for Higher Education and joined the QAA group that developed benchmark standards for business and management in higher education. Ian also made a major contribution to the development of professional education and training in human resource management through his work for the IPD/CIPD’s National Education Committee and from 1997-2001 as vice-president for membership and education.
But "street cred" was not the only factor in Ian’s success as an academic leader. The other was his personal character and style.
Ian was a gentleman in both senses of the word. He was unfailingly tactful and diplomatic and could command respect in any company. In his professional life this was best summed up in the phrase once used to describe him by one of his MA students at De Montfort: "Massive, quiet authority."
In discussion or argument he always remained relaxed. Yet the quiet, well-modulated way in which he expressed himself lent a weight to his case that others could rarely match. A colleague at the CIPD said that Ian was able to ask the difficult question and give people the hard word but always in a way that maintained their dignity and gained their acceptance. He was also a gentle man - in speech and in action. The sound of Ian losing his temper or raising his voice was rare indeed.
Ian was generous with his time, his interest and his encouragement. He was good at spotting talent and was generous in the personal support that he gave to young academic staff and promising students. Ian had the confidence to give people their head so that they could explore and develop their interests. This contributed enormously to the creative output of the departments he led and to the support that he received in return.
Although Ian possessed natural gravitas he was never pompous and disliked pretentiousness and excessive formality. His "cool" personal style was reflected in a number of areas: the way he dressed - a crusade against the sartorially challenged image of the academic; his musical tastes - Mozart and Roxy Music; and his fondness for cars, travel, good food and wine. Ian possessed a mischievous sense of humour in addition to a delight in the good life.
He was an optimist and enthusiast who found and shared new sources of pleasure and excitement in every new situation: from the challenges offered by a new job to the opportunities to investigate the pubs and restaurants in a new location.
Ian’s move from De Montfort University to the North East Wales Institute (NEWI) at the beginning of the year provided him with many new sources of stimulation. He was typically positive and enthusiastic about the institute and its prospects, his new colleagues, the opportunities for meeting with the political establishment, the beauty of Shropshire and the Welsh Marches, and his delight in finding a new house that had once been a pub. It is clear that Ian’s feelings about his new colleagues were reciprocated and that, even in the space of a few months, he had generated the same high regard at NEWI as he did at De Montfort and Kingston.
Many people will miss Ian, particularly those of us who are fortunate enough to remember him as a colleague who helped us at critical points in our careers and as a friend who enlivened our company with his wit, charm and generous affection. http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2013/01/29/8290a-2003-01.aspx