The passing of Tony van der Kuyl will reverberate around Scottish education where he made his mark for some 32 years as a pioneer in utilising technology to deliver educational improvement for both pupils and teachers alike. Through a long and distinguished career, cut short by a very brief illness, Tony brought an element of mischievous excitement to the often stale corridors of education.
A big man in every sense – big on ideas, big on achievement and some 6’ 4” tall – Tony loved nothing more than making an impact on education, never more so than as the Director of the Scottish Interactive Technology Centre at Edinburgh University’s Faculty of Education which he founded and managed since its inception in 1989.
Born in Dundee the oldest of three children, Tony’s ancestry, like his life had great sparkle; his father was Chief Engineer on a submarine which escaped from the Netherlands at the outbreak of WWII and he settled in Dundee where he has remained ever since.
Tony began his education at St. Patrick’s PS and St. Michael’s secondary and after serving his apprenticeship as a toolmaker and draughtsman began his career in engineering. He married Marlynn Zamorska in 1969 and they had one son, Chris, the well known entrepreneur.
As a result of his stature and competitive nature he became involved in the first basketball teams formed in Scotland and became an avid player and fan for life. He gained representative honours with the Scottish Universities Team and spent most of his playing career in national and local leagues as a Centre wearing number 12 with Menzieshill/Dundee Basketball Club where he was also coach for a number of years.
An original left wing activist Tony decided to radically change his career and in 1970 returned to education. He studied History and Politics at the University of Dundee graduating with honours in 1974. Along with contemporaries such as George Robertson and Brian Wilson, Tony engaged in the fierce hotbed of student politics and led the International Socialist movement at the University.
Post graduation, Tony studied at Jordanhill College in Glasgow graduating in 1975 as a Batchelor of Education. Tony’s teaching career began at St. Saviour’s HS, Dundee as a Modern Studies and History teacher. At St. Saviour’s under rector Tony Gavin he pioneered the use of computers in schools in the late 70s and led the school to be the first in the country to offer Computer Studies as a recognised subject.
After a brief six month stop as Head of Computer Studies at Rockwell HS, Dundee Tony took up the position of Lecturer in Computer Studies at Moray House College in Edinburgh. Since 1983 his primary interest had been the use of interactive technology in teaching and learning with particular focus on continuing professional development. During a prolific career he published and produced over fifty multimedia, on–line and video products and accompanying publications for a wide range of clients. He won several British Interactive Media Awards and numerous other plaudits for his body of pioneering work and was recognised globally as a leader in his field.
It was his unparalleled commitment to enterprise education and his thirst to do what was right for Scotland’s young people that marked him out as someone very special. Tony did not confine himself to Scotland alone, his work and endeavour took him all over the world. His ‘can do’ nature infected many an educationalist in Europe, Africa, Australasia, Asia and America. He worked globally, presenting at conferences and advising governments and other educational organisations for many years.
Latterly, Tony committed huge portions of his time to deliver compelling content supporting the Scottish Government’s Determined to Succeed enterprise education campaign, Unbeknown to many, even as illness set in, he was again hard at work in a philanthropic sense helping to craft an educational strategy in support of former President Clinton and Sir Tom Hunter’s work in Rwanda and Malawi.
Whilst his contribution to education is his professional legacy, Tony was actively involved in the burgeoning folk music scene in Tayside in the 60s. Featuring as a singer and guitarist in The Shifters with Jimmy Reid for many years he performed at folk clubs and gigs across the country. During the 1980s Tony began to perform again with son Chris and for the rest of his life was always ready to take centre stage if there was an opportunity to sing.
Tony was probably the proudest papa on earth to his grandsons Jan (2) and Robin (1) the sons of Chris and Heather enjoying and supporting every aspect of their lives.
Tony and his family had spent recent months establishing the van der Kuyl Education Foundation (www.vanderkuyl.com) which will ensure that Tony’s philosophy, influence, network and enthusiasm continues to positively affect the education of children around the world.
Tony celebrated Christmas and New Year with close friends and family and was, as ever, the star of the show; loud and happy in the knowledge that he’d lived his life to the full. His compassion and emotional attachment to doing ‘what was right for young people’ will never be forgotten, nor his unending optimism that solutions to educational problems were always just around the corner. He is survived by his wife, son, grandsons, father and sisters.
A celebration of his life and funeral service will take place at The Bonar Hall, Park Place, University of Dundee, at 1pm on Friday, 8th February 2008, thereafter to Barnhill Cemetery, Broughty Ferry at 2.30pm, to which all family and friends are respectfully invited.
Ewan Hunter, January 2008