Born 6 January 1945, Belfast
Died 20 May 2013, Edinburgh
Alastair Steven, born in Belfast in 1945, was George and Sheila Steven’s oldest son in a family of five. Alastair won a scholarship to Methodist College Belfast, where he excelled, before attending Queen’s University Belfast and graduating with an honours degree in Physics.
Having met, Sylvia, his future wife on a holiday in Spain, he applied for a post as a physics teacher at Edinburgh’s Liberton High School where Sylvia taught chemistry. He started at Liberton in August 1969 and he and Sylvia married shortly thereafter.
After three years at Liberton, he became Principal Teacher of Physics at Drummond High School and served there from 1972 to 1982. He is remembered from his Drummond days as “a true gentleman” who mentored and inspired younger teachers.
He moved to Wester Hailes Education Centre, Scotland’s first purpose built community high school, in 1982 where he was PT Physics prior to becoming one of the city’s TVEI (Technical and Vocational Education Initiative) coordinators. He had a life-long commitment to education which was relevant and which helped prepare young for the world of work but he also remained a committed and inspiring subject teacher. Along with Geoff Cacket and Jim Lowrie he wrote the highly popular physics text books, Higher Still Physics and Core Physics. He is remembered by former pupils from this period as an inspiring teacher.
He became Assistant Headteacher at Wester Hailes where he was dedicated to the welfare of the students in his year group. He was loyal, kind, humorous, committed and methodical, a warmly human figure. His dealings with more challenging students were characterised by patience, compassion and care for all who came within his orbit. He was tireless, relentless even, in working to overcome obstacles and to improve the life of the school, of his colleagues and of the young people for whom he worked. He was the school bloodhound – who sniffed out misdemeanours and problems with the scientist’s analytical eye, but then accepted responsibility for what he had detected and put endless hours into communicating and remonstrating with the very students whose faults he had spotted.
His career was completed with two very satisfying years as Enterprise Development Officer for the City of Edinburgh, from which post he retired in 2006.
He suffered cancer in 2010 and endured surgery and unpleasant treatments with a smile, always replying, “I’m fine, thanks,” when asked about his health. He remained, to the end, fortified by his Christian faith, in the positive spirits which had characterised his life. He died on the day after the marriage of his son Michael to Beki, his fiancé. He had insisted that the wedding go on without him but was delighted that the wedding party was able to visit him at the Marie Curie Hospice.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia, his three children, Kenneth, Jacqueline and Michael and his daughter-in-law Beki.
The above article was published in the Queen’s University Belfast Alumni Journal: http://daro.qub.ac.uk/page.aspx?pid=862