Warm tributes have been paid to University and College Union (UCU) vice president John McCormack, who died on Friday (December 13).

The grandfather-of-one, described as a “wonderful, principled man,” had suffered a brief illness.

Mr McCormack, aged 66, was elected national president of UCU in 2012 and was due to serve his term next year.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “John was a wonderful, principled man. He was always courteous, even when he disagreed with you.

“John embodied everything that is so good and important about education. He was steeped in the trade union movement and made friends wherever he went.

“His death is a huge loss to UCU and to anybody fortunate enough to have met or worked with him.”

In addition to UCU activities, Mr McCormack also served on several regional and national bodies, including the executive committee of the Northern Region TUC. He was awarded the Northern Regional TUC Certificate of Merit in 1991. Earlier this year he also contributed to an FE Week supplement from the Labour Party Conference.

He was the branch chair at Northumberland College, where he lectured in trade union studies, for many years where he was credited with leading successful campaigns against compulsory redundancies and for improvements to lecturers’ terms and conditions.

Mavis Taggert, IT lecturer at Northumberland College and UCU branch secretary, said: “It was with great sorrow that we received the sad news about John, who was a well-respected member of staff at the college.

“He was an inspiration to many, made many friends and was always polite and compassionate towards the needs of others.”

Mr McCormack also lectured at Newcastle College, from September 2009 to February 2011, and Bradford College.

Margaret Stephenson, TUC course co-ordinator at Newcastle College, said: “John brought real passion and expertise to the role and inspired staff and students alike.

“He was a lovely man who was extremely professional at all times and he will be sadly missed. My condolences go to his family.”

Steve Davison, head of trade union studies at Bradford College, said: “John delivered trade union courses for Bradford Trade Union Studies Centre in the northern region.

“He was not only a respected course tutor, but someone who had enormous experience of work, trade union activity and representational abilities at the highest levels. He was truly a graduate of the University of Life.

“Respected for his principled approach to advancing the causes of working people, John will be sorely missed by his colleagues at all the levels he worked at including his fellow tutors at Bradford College.”

Mr McCormack is survived by a son, daughter-in-law and grandson.