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Keith Sainsbury 1924 - 2011

calm water

Keith Sainsbury, who died in January in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, aged 86, taught at the University of Reading from 1956 until his retirement in September 1989.

Keith was born in Reading in June 1924 and at the age of 9 won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital School before securing a place to read Greats at Oriel College Oxford. However, he did not take up the place as he undertook war service, first in the Army and latterly at Bletchley Park, where he worked on breaking the Japanese codes.

It was while he was at Bletchley that Keith met Mary, who was to be his wife for over 60 years. After demobilisation, Keith went up to Oxford in 1946, but this time to read PPE, graduating in 1948 and gaining his M Phil in 1949.

Keith's first appointment was in the Politics Department at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, before returning to England in 1956 to join the emerging Politics Department in Reading. Together with Peter Campbell, Keith presided over the development of the Politics Department, teaching a wide range of courses, mainly in international relations and diplomacy.

Students and staff always found Keith to be a very amenable colleague with a strong line in awful puns and aphorisms such as his final comment in hospital that he was glad the doctors had diagnosed his illness as pneumonia and he would have hated it to be ‘old monia'; that you should never put ‘Descartes before des horses'; and his campaign slogan for Mitterand ‘Discard Giscard!". All which hid a very acute mind that gained a considerable reputation for scholarship, especially in his published works on the political and military diplomacy of World War II.

Keith encouraged younger members of the department with his quiet supportive attitude and comments. Students always found ‘uncle Keith' to be the most courteous of tutors and friendly of members of staff. Keith took on the role at Faculty Senior Tutor, although most people would argue that administration was never his strongest point.

Keith once asked me if I knew what the windiest place in Reading was. I thought it was one of Keith's jokes and gave a non-committal reply, only to be informed that it was, in fact Platform 5 of Reading Station when a non-stop Inter-city 125 was passing through the station, Keith having recently experienced this phenomenon and the contents of his briefcase were deposited along the line between Reading and South Wales.

However frustrating Keith could be as a result of his renowned tardiness (although he claimed never to miss anything vital), his cheery smile was more than enough to melt even the most annoyed person. When Keith retired in 1989, he was a Senior Lecturer and had seen the small department he joined in 1956 expand to the much larger modern department of today.

Outside the University, Keith spent many years as a chief examiner in Political Studies for Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board and students over the years no doubt owe an unknown debt of gratitude to him for the care and attention he brought to that post. Aside from his academic work, Keith was an active and life-ling member of Reading Labour Party.

He was also Chairman and later Life President of the Sainsbury Singers that produced two well supported and for an amateur organisation extremely high quality and successful shows. Keith's father, a local musician and conductor founded the Sainsbury Singers before the World War.

Keith and his wife were also strong supporters of MENCAP and active members of the Borocourt Parents Association.

Keith is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter Frances and son, Martin and three grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for Reading later in the year.

Peter M Jones

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