The family of retired Professor Iain Stevenson have paid tribute to a much-loved father, grandfather and friend who had ‘an unwavering passion for learning and imparting his knowledge to others’.
The Emeritus Professor, aged 66, tragically died after being involved in a collision with a car in London Road, Bishop’s Stortford, at around 7.30pm on March 1.
He leaves his former wife Jane, 69, sons Pete, 37, and John, 29; his daughters Miriam, 39, and Bella, 33, two granddaughters and a wide circle of friends.
The father-of-four, who lived in Bishop’s Stortford, was born in Shotts, North Lanarkshire, on April 2, 1950 and attended Wishaw High School, where teachers initially told him he ‘would not go very far’.
However, a young Iain went on to prove them wrong by studying at the University of Glasgow, the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and University College London (UCL), where he completed two Master’s degrees and a PhD respectively.
Prof. Stevenson, who inherited his love of books from his late father, went on to work in the publishing field in the early 80s; first at Longman Publishers and Macmillan followed by the Pinter Group, where he founded his own publishing house called Belhaven Press. He then went on to work at The Stationary Office (TSO) in Norwich before realising his heart lay in academia.
When an opportunity arose to set-up and teach the Master’s degree in publishing at UCL, he soon became famous within his field for his passion and expertise on the subject. He was always on hand to offer advice and support, and took great joy in hearing about his former students’ achievements. On hearing of his passing, his former colleagues and students took to the UCL website to post heart-warming tributes to the world-renowned Professor.
Though he contributed to dozens of books throughout his career, Prof. Stevenson achieved his life’s dream by writing a book of his own called Book Makers: British Publishing in the Twentieth Century, which details the rich history of publishing in Britain.
Daughter Bella said: “Dad made friends wherever he went. At his UCL retirement party in 2015, we watched as everyone just gravitated towards him. People loved to be around him and listen to his fascinating life experiences.”
John, who is a trained actor, said: “One of my fondest memories of Dad was when he came to see me perform in The Mousetrap in London’s West End. In between shows, I brought him backstage and we just sat talking in the empty auditorium. He took such pleasure in life and learning. His passion for the world was unwavering.”
Pete, who works as a Science teacher, said: “He had this great desire to pass on knowledge to others. I remember this one occasion when we were at a taxi rank in Vancouver, he got talking to some people and started sharing the history of the place. He could talk to anyone – and people wanted to listen.”
Daughter Miriam said: “He had such a love of books and sharing his experiences with others.”
Though he and his former wife Jane were no longer married, the pair remained good friends and often went to the cinema together.
Jane said: “We shared many happy walking holidays together in Derbyshire with the children, and remained life-long friends. Every Christmas was a happy affair, with the whole family getting together to enjoy the festivities.”
Remembering his father’s personality, Pete said: “Dad had such a witty sense of humour. He was very driven and a very hard worker. He always wanted us to be curious about the world. He has left behind a massive legacy with his family and friends, not only in publishing but in his zest for life.”