Obituary: Dr Joseph Dunning CBE, founding principal of Napier College, 91

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Tributes have been paid to Dr Joseph Dunning CBE, a founding principal of Napier College who helped to change the shape of school education, who has died, aged 91.

Joseph Dunning was appointed as the first Principal of Napier College of Science and Technology in 1963. The development of Napier College from a local technical institution to a major force in Scottish higher education took place under his direction.

In addition, Dr Dunning made a number of notable contributions to education as a whole in Scotland. His work on the structure of Scottish secondary school ordinary level awards (The Dunning Report) is highly respected and is quoted widely.

In 1976 the college library, which he was instrumental in having provided, was named after him.

He retired in 1981 at the end of a period of unparalleled service and devotion to the College.

He had two children with his first wife Edith, and daughter Elizabeth and son John went on to give him six grandchildren.

Edith sadly died during his time at Napier, and in 1992 he re-married, tying the knot with Eileen Murdoch, a former head teacher at St Augustine’s School.

After his retirement Dr Dunning continued to play an active role locally, being Chairman of the Lothian Health Board from 1983 to 1984.

Dr Dunning gained a London University Honours Degree in the early days of his career in the metallurgical industry. In 1968 he completed his thesis for a Master of Education degree at Durham University.

In 1977 he was awarded the honour of Commander, Order of the British Empire. The Council for National Academic Awards conferred upon him the degree of Honorary Doctor of Education in 1983.

An Edinburgh Napier spokesman said: “As the first Principal of Napier College, Joseph was instrumental in turning what was a respected local technical institution into a significant force in Scottish higher education. His contribution to Scottish education as a whole was also considerable, notably his highly respected work on the structure of Scottish secondary school ordinary level awards. Our condolences are with his family.”

His former colleague, Professor William Turmeau said: “He was very committed to Napier, and he made a point of hiring all of the heads of departments himself, which was unusual at the time.

“He worked extremely hard at it, and by the time he left, the college was considered one of the best in the country.”

A funeral service for Dr Dunning was held in Penrith on Tuesday.