New Fellows elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh

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Three senior staff at the University of Stirling and a former Chair of University Court have been elected to the prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), it has been announced.

Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal (Education and Students); Professor Rachel Norman, Dean for Research Engagement and Performance; and Ms Cathy Gallagher, Executive Director of Sport, have been made Fellows of Scotland’s National Academy. They are joined by Dr Alan Simpson OBE, the Lord Lieutenant for Stirling and Falkirk, who served as the University’s Chair of Court – the governing body of the University – for eight years and is also an honorary graduate of Stirling.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “On behalf of the university community, I send our warmest congratulations to Lord Lieutenant Alan Simpson, Professor Leigh Sparks, Professor Rachel Norman, and Ms Cathy Gallagher on being elected Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

“This is prestigious recognition from an internationally-renowned organisation, which celebrates excellence across Scottish society; we are incredibly proud of Alan, Leigh, Rachel and Cathy's achievements.”


Professor Sir John Ball, President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: “It is a great privilege to welcome our new Fellows – they represent outstanding commitment and achievement at the highest level across a diverse range of sectors. From scientific advancement that changes lives to leading business innovation recognised across the world, the RSE welcomes the best minds to harness their unique insight and make knowledge useful for the greater good.”

The RSE – Scotland’s National Academy – was established in 1783 for “the advancement of learning and useful knowledge”, and its mission remains to deploy knowledge for the public good. It has around 1,800 Fellows, who provide independent expert advice to policymakers and inspire the next generation of innovative thinkers.

The Fellows’ knowledge contributes to the social and economic wellbeing of Scotland, its people and the nation’s wider contribution to the global community.

Professor Leigh Sparks

Professor Leigh Sparks

In addition to his Deputy Principal role, Professor Sparks is a Professor in Retail Studies at the University. He is an internationally leading researcher in aspects of spatial-structural change in retailing.

Among his many external roles, Professor Sparks has served as Board Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership since 2013 and as Chair of the Review of the Town Centre Action Plan for the Scottish Government. He was workstream leader on the Government’s Retail Strategy, and is currently on the Expert Advisory Group examining the economic effects of minimum unit pricing of alcohol, and the Board for the ‘Go Local’ project, a collaboration between the Scottish Grocers Federation, Scotland Food and Drink and the Scottish Government.

Professor Sparks said: “I am obviously personally delighted by the honour of election to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

“The role of place, towns, retailing and communities has been a focus of much of my work at the University of Stirling and through being Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership. I hope that my work has made and will continue to make a difference to improving Scotland’s places and communities.”

Professor Rachel Norman

Professor Rachel Norman

Professor Norman joined the University of Stirling in 1996 and, as a Professor of Food Security and Sustainability, she uses mathematics to solve real-world problems. In her institutional role, Professor Norman is pivotal in the development, promotion, and enhancement of research culture across the University, and is actively involved in public engagement around research.

Professor Norman, who is also President of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, said: “It is a real honour to have been elected as a fellow and I am looking forward to contributing to the work of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

“I was nominated thanks to the championing of an external colleague which was unexpected and has demonstrated to me the importance and value of mentoring and championing others. I plan to pay that forward.”

Cathy Gallagher

Ms Cathy Gallagher

Ms Gallagher has led sport at the University for the past seven years. She has overseen the delivery of the University’s redeveloped £20 million Sports Centre, which supports the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the wider community, and the continuing success of its high-performance sports programmes, which have seen Stirling athletes showcase their talents and win a plethora of medals on the world stage, including at the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

Ms Gallagher is a current Board Member of British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and is Chair of the BUCS Senior Managers Network. She is also a member of the Scottish Student Sport Executive Committee and is Chair of the National Representatives Forum of the European Network of Academic Sport Services (ENAS).

She said: “The role of sport and physical activity is of paramount importance in the health and wellbeing of all communities, populations and societies. I look forward to working collaboratively with Fellows from across the RSE to help unlock further benefit and I am privileged to be elected to such a prestigious body.”

Dr Alan Simpson
Dr Alan Simpson
Former Chair of University Court
Knowledge is the key to future prosperity in this country and elsewhere. The Royal Society of Edinburgh plays a vital role in encouraging the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination across society in an inclusive and impartial manner.

Dr Alan Simpson OBE

Dr Simpson is Royal Lord-Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk and provided the University of Stirling with vision and leadership while serving as Chair of Court from 2007 to 2015. He has also made a significant contribution to the higher education sector in Scotland, bringing considerable knowledge and experience in the development of guidelines for good governance of universities.

Dr Simpson previously chaired the Committee of the Scottish Chairs of Higher Education Institutions and the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was made an OBE in 2015 for services to education, and became an honorary graduate of the University in 2016. Currently, he is chair of the Macrobert Arts Centre and chairman of the Lake of Menteith Fisheries Limited.

Dr Simpson said: “Knowledge is the key to future prosperity in this country and elsewhere. The Royal Society of Edinburgh plays a vital role in encouraging the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination across society in an inclusive and impartial manner. 

“It is a real honour and privilege to be elected as a Fellow of the RSE and to be in a position to contribute to its invaluable work.”

For more information on the RSE, visit its website.