Professor Asher Tropp
BORN JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, JANUARY 2, 1925. DIED LONDON, SEPTEMBER 16, 2015, AGED 90
EDUCATION IN the developing world was a particular interest of Professor Asher Tropp, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey, who lectured widely on the subject in universities around the world.
The youngest child and only son of Sam and Esta (née Goodman), his father was a woollen merchant and his mother had been a suffragette before and in the early days of her marriage. In South Africa she was homesick and soon after Asher’s birth, the family, including his two older sisters, Netta and Lilian, returned to England.
He attended Hackney Downs School (formerly the Grocers’ Company’s School), and then the University of Reading, where he obtained his BSc and met Lyn (Eluned) Morgan, who became his wife.
After National Service in The Royal Navy, he attended the London School of Economics, where he obtained his PhD. While there he won a Fulbright scholarship to Princeton University where he studied for a year. He returned to lecture in sociology at LSE, then went to Battersea College of Advanced Technology, which became the University
Professor Asher Tropp: keen student of the world’s educational systems of Surrey, where he established the Department of Sociology, and also pursued his main interest, education, especially in the developing world. He lectured at the University of California, the University of Texas (Houston), and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He also spent a year based in Puerto Rico, before travelling around South and Central America to study their education systems.
Professor Tropp always took a keen interest in the education of younger family members, taking pleasure in our academic achievements.
In order to obtain a passport to take up his scholarship, he had to establish that his father, born in Kolbushova, Eastern Europe, had obtained British nationality. This research led to a lifetime’s fascination with his family history and wherever he travelled he would look up “Tropp” in the local phone book and call to ask if they might be related. He found Tropps in many parts of the world, including the UK, and discovered many fascinating facts about the family.
Although all his grandparents had left Eastern Europe for England during the 1880s, this research led to the tragic discovery that the remaining family had perished in the Holocaust.
Throughout his life, Asher Tropp turned to traditional Jewish texts during times of personal difficulty, such as bereavement or illness, and he gained comfort and clarification from studying Torah and Talmud.
After his retirement from Surrey he continued his interest in Jewish subjects and attended University College London where he obtained his MA, his (unpublished) dissertation being on the subject of Russian Jews in Britain during the First World War. He was the author of several books and papers including Schoolteachers: the Growth of the Teaching Profession in England and Wales from 1800 to the Present Day (published 1957), and Jews in the Professions in Great Britain 1881–1981 (published 1991), written to mark the centenary of the Maccabeans. In his foreword, Lord Justice Balcombe, President of the Maccabeans, writes that his predecessor, Sir Alan Marre KCB, together with Dr Vivian Lipman CVO, conceived the idea and chose Professor Tropp to be the author of the study. He continued: “The wisdom of their choice will at once be apparent to the reader of this monograph.”
Family Seder services were always both amusing and enlightening as he would not only answer the Four Questions but answer all our other questions; for example the complicated maths behind the number of plagues with which the ancient Egyptians were smitten. If there were insufficient questions, he would simply tell us what lay behind the texts anyway.
Our last memory of him before he was severely compromised by his illness was at Passover 2013, when at the age of 88 he was on top form with anecdotes and information that kept us all enthralled.
Having reached 88, his ambition was to live to 90, and he achieved this milestone this year. He is survived by his son, Sam, and nephews and nieces.