Alumni engagement and philanthropy

Robert (Roy) James Crawford CNZM (died 23 June 2016, aged 67)

An additional obituary can also be found on the University of Waikato website.

Roy Crawford, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s, BSc Mechanical Engineering graduate (1970), PhD (1973) and DSc (1987), died peacefully at home after a period of illness on 23 June 2016.

Born in Northern Ireland, Roy turned down a promising football career to pursue an academic career in mechanical and process engineering. His lifelong primary research focus was mechanical and process engineering; his speciality was polymers, and moulded plastics in particular. His research resulted in a number of patented techniques for recording temperatures during the moulding process and improving the quality of moulded parts.

From 1989 to 1999 he was Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the School of Mechanical and Process Engineering at Queen’s. During this time he established the Polymer Processing Research Centre, which includes the Research Group on rotational moulding of plastics, which he also set up.

After two years as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, he came back to Queen’s in 2001 where he became Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research until 2004.

Returning to New Zealand, Professor Crawford served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand from January 2005 to December 2014. His main achievements during this time included leading Waikato into the top 50 universities in the world, implementing a research excellence agenda that improved its research capability and overseeing $100 million of campus building and improvement projects.

A member of a number of professional organisations he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (1998) and a Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers (2005). In the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours Crawford was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), one of the highest honours in New Zealand, for his work in tertiary education.

Awarded more than a dozen international prizes for his research he published 9 books and over 300 papers during a distinguished academic career. He was also a member of numerous government panels, research grant committees and associations linked to the plastics industry and travelled the world to give lectures on his specialist subject.  

He was Director of Technical Services for ARM – the Association of Rotational Molders – a worldwide trade association, and was elected to their Hall of Fame in 2007, one of only four non-Americans to receive this honour.

Speaking after his passing, Conchita Miranda, President of ARM said: “Roy was an erudite gentleman. I learned a lot from him, and I am pretty sure that all rotomolders around the world can say the same. He dedicated his life to research and sharing his knowledge, from Ireland to New Zealand. From ARM to RotoWorld. From his lab to the world. Our industry owes much of our development over the decades to him.

“The rotomolding industry worldwide will never forget him.”

An Emeritus Professor of the University of Waikato, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in April this year for his services to education. Paying tribute to him, the University’s Chancellor, the Rt Hon James Bolger, said he led the University through a period of changing landscapes for universities in New Zealand. “He left the University of Waikato in strong financial and academic heart and with a strong community focus. He will be sorely missed by colleagues and friends here.”

Roy is survived by his wife Renee, and three children Paul, Steven, and Emma.


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