5 April 2017
A tribute to the academic contribution of Dr Steve Dempster, who sadly died on Wednesday 29th March 2017.

2 November 1970 – 29 March 2017

Recently the Department and academic community lost a dear colleague, a scholar of the highest calibre, and dedicated teacher at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As a teacher, Steve was greatly appreciated by students for his outstanding commitment, high level of engagement and great sense of humour. Since his death, we have been overwhelmed by students writing to share with us their experiences of Steve as a thoughtful, intellectually generous, and kind teacher.

Steve was also a brilliant researcher and writer although he was never interested in the kind of self-promotion that too often accompanies such excellence. Steve was one of the first researchers to consider 'lad' culture in higher education: through his doctoral research he provided a nuanced, critical analysis of 'laddish' masculinities in university. His PhD (awarded in 2007) research was published in several influential articles, including: 'I drink, therefore I'm man: gender discourses, alcohol and the construction of British undergraduate masculinities' (Gender and Education, 2011); 'The salience of gender during the transition to higher education: male students' accounts of performed and authentic identities' (British Educational Research Journal, 2007); 'Having the balls, having it all?: sport and constructions of undergraduate laddishness' (Gender and Education, 2009); and '"I sat back on my computer … with a bottle of whisky next to me": constructing "cool" masculinity through "effortless" achievement in secondary and higher education' (Journal of Gender Studies, 2009).

During a career that was cut all too short Steve was committed to critical explorations of gender and to fighting for equality. Prior to taking up his lectureship in 2014, Steve was a core member of the Researching Equity, Access and Participation group within the Department.  He contributed to a number of important widening access and transition into HE research and evaluation projects, drawing upon his former career as a secondary teacher and bringing his psychological and sociological expertise to all stages of the research process. As with his teaching, he was creative and highly skilled in motivating and sharing his passion for research and social justice, for example when working with young researchers in Barrow as part of the Youth Re:Action project.  

His more recent work included explorations of gender and literacy, with publications including: 'Children’s literacy practices and preferences: Harry Potter and beyond' (Routledge, 2016); 'What has Harry Potter done for me? Children’s reflections on their "Potter experience"'; and 'Harry Potter and the transfiguration of boys’ and girls' literacies'. Steve had also begun to develop further his expertise in evaluation. He was part of a team from the Department’s Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation that evaluated the Scottish approach to the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education. This was a new departure for Steve, but he took to it with his customary professionalism and integrity.

At a personal level Steve was a delight to work with. He was utterly dependable, an insightful analyst and nuanced interviewer. His wry smile, sardonic sense of humour, and shared sideways glances prompted by the vagaries of working in a University, will stay with anyone with whom he worked.

Steve's commitment to working for social justice was evident not only through his teaching and research but through his everyday practices, including his work as Dean and Vice-Principal of County College at Lancaster University. Steve will be missed greatly by colleagues, friends and current and past students.