Professor David Legge 1936-2020

A tribute to the former British Psychological Society President and Head of Office.

In loving memory of David Legge, who sadly died on 7 June 2020 at the age of 84. He was in hospital having been ill for several weeks.

David was born in South London on 4 April 1936, to Frances Joan and William Dudley Legge. David had a much-loved younger brother, Peter (deceased).

He left home for boarding school at an early age, though he did not enjoy the experience. As an excellent student, however, he pursued an academic path after leaving school: Bachelor’s Degree; Master’s Degree; Doctorate; Professorship. He also undertook National Service, stationed at Honiton in Devon.

David’s academic career in Higher Education began as University Lecturer (Birkbeck College, London). He next took the of role Dean of Education (Huddersfield Polytechnic). After a number of happy years, he moved to become Deputy Vice Chancellor (Staffordshire University). David also worked independently with the Open University, and several educational institutions across the world, validating degree courses.

Former President of the British Psychological Society and highly respected; during his career David published a number of psychology books and papers.

David met his first wife Sylvia in Streatham, when they were 16 years old. They were married in 1959 at the age of 23 and had two sons, Steven and Mathew.

David met his second wife Hilary at Birkbeck College. They were married in 1976, relocating from London to Huddersfield with Hilary’s daughters, Melissa and Alexandra. David and Hilary remained together until she died of Alzheimer’s in January 2017.

He was a keen sportsman. Rugby in earlier years before suffering an injury, then discovering a passion for sailing. This culminated in the ownership of a series of yachts and sailing holidays in the UK, and further afield. The years moved by and golf became a significant part of David and Hilary’s lives. As a founding member of High Leigh Park Golf Club (Knutsford, Cheshire), David’s intellect was put to good use on the Committee.

David was very regimented in his ways; a creature of habit. He prepared meticulously for everything with detailed research – never leaving anything to chance. This stood him in good stead his whole adult life and served to keep mind and wit agile. After suffering a stroke some years ago, he made a near complete recovery through self-discipline and mental gymnastics: reciting the alphabet backwards and learning Bridge.

David had a heart of gold, which became clear to all when his wife Hilary was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This had a profound effect on the way David viewed the world. He was devoted to her care – unwavering and unstinting.

Above all else, David was an intellectual; an academic; much admired and respected. An avid learner; educator; keen sportsman; opera lover. 

He was much-loved and will be greatly missed.

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I believe David's career in higher educaiton began at University College London and that from Birkbeck he went to the City of London Polytechnic where he headed the Psychoogy Department for a while.

Along with all his other achievements, David was also a long-serving stalwart of the Society. He was very active during my years on the staff as Executive Secretary (1980 to 2000) being a key member of the Membership and Fellowship committes. In what was, at the time, very much a member-led organisation, he was one of the real grafters, devoting time and energy to his service to the Society and I held him in the highest regard.

I never regretted sugesting he be approached to take over as chair of the Steering Committee on Registration when Professor Connolly had to step down for health reasons. David, ably assisted by Dr Frazer Watts, won approval for the Society to confer Chartered status on suitably qualified individual members, who thereafter would be know as 'Chartered Psychologists'. The original plan was to base the registration of psychologist on Chartered status, but this failed to get government approval in the end.

Until near the end of my time as Executive Secretary, the whole (about 55 person-strong) Council of the Society were the legally responsible trustees. Charity Commission best prctice suggested this was far too large a number of people to discharge the legal responsibilities of trustees properly.  The Society needed to change, especially as the late, Alan Sakne, the Business Manager was retiring. David was appointed to a short term post of Development Officer and it was his plan for changing the management of the office that led to the appointment of a Chief Executive, with a series of Directorates. This management structure, and the present arrangement for trustees owes its existence to the role David played on the office staff. I guess in my twenty years as Executive Secretary, David had more influence over how the Society evolved and developed than any other person. He was indeed a great man and I am proud to have known him and shared his passion for sailing!