David Potter, a dear friend and former colleague, passed away at the age of 88. He was a member of the pioneering group of academics who came together to establish the Open University. In 1970, David joined the OU when it had just been set up and had not yet taken on any students. Founding the university from scratch was a tough and incredible challenge, which undoubtedly benefited a lot of students.
David worked with a group of brilliant colleagues, including the cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, during the 1980s. They created a social sciences foundation course at the OU that achieved near legendary status. Unfortunately, the course fell foul of the Thatcher administration, which made unfounded accusations of Marxist bias.
David was born in Berkeley, California, to George Potter, a professor of English literature, and Mabel (nee Harrington), a pianist. He completed his master’s degree in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and his PhD at the London School of Economics, where he met Jennifer Field, whom he married in 1960.
He subsequently taught political science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. However, his academic life took a turn for the worse when he got involved in supporting colleagues who had been sacked for their political views and ended up being dismissed himself.
David returned to Britain in 1970, and he based himself in Bedford. He secured a job as a senior lecturer in political science at the Open University, where he spent over 25 years. Rising to professor before retiring in 1997, he continued his academic research into Indian public administration, which he had started at Berkeley. This research led to the publication of his book, India’s Political Administrators, 1919-1983.
During his retirement, David enjoyed walking in the beautiful, rolling Bedfordshire countryside and the pleasures of good music, wine, and company. He also travelled with Jennifer, with whom he had embarked on his adventurous honeymoon driving overland to India.
David is survived by Jennifer, their children, Christopher, Jonathan, Alison, and Rachel, as well as nine grandchildren.