Phillip Williams obituary

<span>Phillip Williams finished his career as professor of education at the University of Wales in Bangor</span><span>Photograph: provided by family</span>
Phillip Williams finished his career as professor of education at the University of Wales in BangorPhotograph: provided by family

My father, Phillip Williams, who has died aged 97, was one of the first educational psychologists, guided by a strong belief in equal opportunity.

Phill joined the education department at the University of Wales (Swansea) in the 1960s, and moved in the early 70s to the Open University, where he became dean of education. He took a sabbatical year in 1974, visiting India, Iran and Columbia for the British Council, mainly giving talks on the development of the Open University, and was then part of the Warnock committee for special education (1975-77) while lecturing at the OU, before going back to the University of Wales (Bangor) as professor of education (1979-83).

Born in Pontypridd, south Wales, to Ceinwen (nee James) and Edward Williams, who were both teachers, Phill left the Valleys aged 13 when his mother moved to work in rural Berkshire, but he remained a proud Welshman throughout his life. He gained a scholarship to the Leys school in Cambridge and a chemistry degree from St John’s College, Cambridge University.

In 1948, after national service in industry, he did teacher training at the Institute of Education in London, where he met Glenys Davies, whom he married two years later. In 1949 he began teaching chemistry at Archbishop Tenison’s school in Kennington, studying at night for a psychology degree through Birkbeck College.

Following a postgraduate year at the Tavistock Institute in London he became an educational psychologist for the local authority in Southampton (1953-57) and then for Glamorgan county council (1957-60), in the early years of the profession. After that he took a more academic route, beginning with his appointment at the University of Wales and ending with his retirement.

A loving father and grandfather, Phill was warm, patient and full of interests, whether reciting a poem from memory, restoring an old chair or proudly offering a glass of wine made from his Anglesey grapes. He loved company, connecting as easily with eminent academics as he did with stroppy teenagers.

A keen hill-walker who would often “find” hidden chocolates and coins on his rambles, to the delight of any accompanying small children, he climbed Snowdon, with family, on his 80th birthday. Having played rugby as a young man, he followed the national team with passion well into his 90s.

Apart from his published academic work, Phill also wrote The Edge of Death, a mountaineering crime novel, At a Stroke (under the name Huw Watkins), a book describing his experiences surrounding Glenys’s death in 2003, and The Insider’s Guide to Being a Brilliant Grandparent.

After Glenys’s death, Phill became a partner to Rosemary Housden; they lived together initially on Anglesey and then in Elmbridge retirement village in Surrey, where Phill continued to live after Rosemary’s death in 2015. In his final years he was cared for lovingly by the team at the Old Rectory care home in Ewhurst, Surrey.

Phill is survived by his children, Gwyneth, Peter and me, seven grandchildren and brother, Dillwyn.