Accessibility statement

Obituary: Julie Williams

Posted on 11 September 2020

Julie Williams who played a critical role in the creation of the Social Policy Research Unit, died on 6 September 2020 aged 72.

When Julie joined SPRU is uncertain (we have not been able to access the archives because of Covid) but she started her career at the University much earlier. Having obtained a first-class degree in mathematics from Bradford she started work in the Computer Services Department. (Jonathan Bradshaw (founding Director of SPRU) remembers her helping him sort out his punch cards derived from data collected for his MPhil. in 1969). She became the go-to expert on Fortran programming and early SPSS as SPRU staff struggled with the digital age in the 1970s and 1980s.

Julie started working for SPRU informally and part-time probably in the early 1980s while having four children in quick succession. A colleague remembers she was heavily pregnant when she came for an interview. Robert Walker who came in 1983 remembers that he found it difficult when he tried to prise her skills away from the then Director of SPRU (Jonathan Bradshaw). She was a key contributor to enabling the unit to develop its hardware equipment and software skills. She undertook analysis of data collected in many projects and her first co-authored publication was with Robert Walker in 1986 on housing benefit. Her first SPRU working paper was with Gillian Parker in 1991, a secondary analysis of the OPCS Disability Survey. She went on to contribute to many studies including BHPS analysis of unpaid carers (with Michael Hirst and Sandra Hutton), non-resident fathers, child well-being, poverty and social exclusion, gender and poverty and minimum income standards in 2008 (with Jonathan Bradshaw). She retired in 2007.

Apart from her academic work, Julie will be remembered as a much-loved colleague, meticulous, generous, painstaking, responsive, unflappable, and irredeemably modest.

Julie cycled to the University from Seaton Ross where she was born (on a farm) and died. She was convenor of the SPRU cinema group which she kept going until the Covid lockdown and a keen and highly successful gardener. The garden that she and her husband Peter (a distinguished biologist) created at Seaton Ross is famous for its acid loving plants, including rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and other interesting shrubs, as well as immaculate borders. Many of us enjoyed their hospitality in those surrounds. It was also an Open Garden raising funds for good causes. She was a brilliant homemaker, cake baker, cook, and provided endless homemade cakes and refreshments for the many garden tours. Julie had an energy and enthusiasm for living life to the full.

Julie was also the heart of her family - Peter, four children (Emily, Hannah, Rosie and Rob) and six grandchildren.