You need a head for heights and a bit of nerve to visit Professor Rita Marcella (pronounced Mar-sella) in her sixth-floor eyrie at Aberdeen Business School on the Garthdee campus of the Robert Gordon University. For why?
Well, to access her office in the building designed by the great British architect Norman Foster, you have to cross what her PA Joanne Lancaster playfully calls the Scary Bridge. This is a link corridor with just glass everywhere and a view of a sheer drop on either side. Avoid if you have vertigo!
I just looked straight ahead and found myself welcomed warmly by Rita who is not at all scary and very down to earth, no doubt thanks to her upbringing in Peterhead. That’s where dad Bill Lawrie ran a fruit and veg business and mum Peggy had a clothes shop called Flair Fashions.
‘I used to love going off with my mum on her trips to Glasgow and London to order stock as well as helping dad,’ said Rita who went on to take an honours degree in English Literature at Aberdeen University and later a Masters. She worked for Occidental before deciding that lecturing was the career for her.
Along the way, Rita and her husband of 37 years, Philip have raised two children, Richard and
Madeleine, now in their late 20s, and have four grandchildren.
‘It’s a big year for us here,’ said Scotland’s first female business school dean, a post she has held for 12 years and before which she was head of the school of information studies at Northumbria University.
‘Aberdeen Business School was established 50 years ago in King Street with just a few students but we now have 5,000 students from all over the world studying a huge variety of disciplines and many of them in masters programmes’, she added. Take your pick, for example, from studies in oil and gas, the food and drink industry, tourism, accountancy, retail and fashion, applied law and journalism.
Rita is also proud of the school’s ranking in the top five in the UK for getting graduates employment, a key element in the school’s strategy. ‘That has always been an important focus for us,’ she said, looking ahead to many and varied functions for the half century celebrations, including conferences, an alumni reunion and a ball in May.
Then it was time for me to leave and cross the Scary Bridge again. Ouch!