Wadham dean dies of heart attack

Dr Robin McCleery, Dean of Wadham College, died on Wednesday morning from a suspected heart attack.

The Warden of Wadham, Neil Chalmers, said, “Clearly this is a deep shock to us all. We shall, of course, do all we can, as a college, to support Robin’s family and his students at this very difficult time.”

This summer was to be the fortieth anniversary of Professor McCleery’s arrival in Oxford as an undergraduate to study Zoology.Professor Bill Sheldon, Director of the Edward Grey Institute (EGI) and a colleague of Dr McCleery’s, said, “We don’t know too much about what happened. We were told by the police. He didn’t turn up for a lecture. “It’s completely out of the blue. He was at work [on Tuesday] so it’s completely surprising. Anyone who interacted with him would say that he was incredibly dedicated to teaching, teaching at all levels in the University and college. He was someone who gave an incredible amount to teaching and everyone will remember him for that.”

He added, “He was a very well-rounded man, with lots of interests outside of the university. He was very interested in politics, a very interesting man to talk to.”Referring to Dr McCleery’s upcoming anniversary, he added, “Typically of him, he didn’t make a song and a dance about it.” Professor Sheldon also praised Dr McCleery’s work with the EGI. He said, “He was very involved in running the long-term project on bird populations. It is a very well-known project world-wide, in which Robin has been a central figure.”

 On his EGI profile, Dr McCleery writes, “After a post graduate Diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science, I decided that doing science was more interesting than talking about it, and joined David McFarland’s group in the Oxford Psychology department for a DPhil on behavioural measurement of hunger and thirst in rats and other laboratory animals.

“In 1975 I moved with David McFarland to the Animal Behaviour Research Group, and worked on an Optimality analysis of incubation behaviour in the Herring gull at Walney Island, Cumbria. In 1978, I joined the EGI, initially with the task of constructing a computerised database of the Wytham Great tit study.”

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Dr McCleery had been working with EGI for 30 years and was a Departmental Research Fellow in Biology and a Fellow and Tutor in Biological Sciences at Wadham College.

His main research interests were listed as the population biology of birds, life history trade offs, effects of predation, environmental heterogeneity and endemicity on individual survival.

Outside of university and college life, Dr McCleery had diverse interests, particularly in politics and music. As part of Wadstock in May 2007, he played saxophone on stage with the band ‘Cop on the Edge’ of which his daughter Anna is a member.by Rob Pomfret