Rae, John Malcolm 1931-2006

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Rae, John Malcolm 1931-2006

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born March 20, 1931, in London, England; died of cancer, December 16, 2006. School administrator and author. A controversial headmaster of the Westminster School in London, England, Rae was also a novelist known for such endearing tales as The Custard Boys (1961). He earned his master’s degree at Cambridge University in 1955, taking the post of assistant master at Harrow School for the next eleven years. Serving as master of Taunton School in Somerset in the late 1960s, Rae began to aspire to more prominent posts. In particular, he hoped one day to be headmaster of Eton. This ambition inspired him to go back to university, and so he earned a Ph.D. at the University of London in 1965. During the 1960s, Rae became known for his outspoken, often negative opinions about public schools, and he drew criticism for publicly complaining in 1969 that parents were failing their children. His policies at Taunton were sometimes seen as heavy-handed, as well, and so Rae decided to accept a job at Westminster School in 1970. He led the school until 1986, never achieving his dream of going to Eton. However, Rae found himself much liked by students and parents at Westminster, though he continued to be criticized by those on the outside. Rae enjoyed making controversial appointments to jobs at the school, and his book The Public School Revolution, which criticized the school system, was not appreciated by many in the profession. Nevertheless, his accomplishments included opening up enrollment to girls at the formerly all-boys school and increasing enrollment significantly. When he left Westminster, he characteristically ruffled feathers by hiring a non-Caucasian woman to replace him. After his retirement from school administration, Rae volunteered at a leper colony in India for a time, then served as director of the London Observer from 1986 to 1993. Beginning in 1989, he directed the Portman Group, a trade group advocating responsible alcohol use, and he was a member of the National Board for Crime Prevention from 1993 to 1995. Among his other fiction works are The Golden Crucifix (1974), Christmas Is Coming (1977), and The Third Twin (1980). Also the author of many nonfiction titles, his more recent works include Letters from School (1987), Too Little Too Late?: The Challenges That Still Face British Education (1989), Sketch Book of the World (1994), Letters to Parents: How to Get the Best Available Education for Your Child (1998), and the biography Sister Genevieve (2001).



Rae, John, Delusions of Grandeur, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.


Times (London, England), December 19, 2006, p. 48.