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Mail man left healthy legacy
6:30pm Wednesday 3rd October 2007 in News
Michael Rowntree, who has died aged 88, was well known not just as a businessman but for his work for charity and the health service.
He was general manager of The Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times from 1951 to 1967, guiding the newspapers through one of their most challenging and successful periods.
But newspapers were not his only interest. He spent 60 years with Oxfam, including a spell as chairman, and helped shape the health service in Oxfordshire.
Mr Rowntree was educated at Bootham School, York - his home town - and The Queen's College, Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics.
His association with newspapers began at the Northern Echo in Darlington, where he spent time in all departments gaining a thorough knowledge of the industry.
During his spell in the circulation department, he skied six miles to deliver newspapers to a village cut off by severe snow drifts.
He moved to Oxford in 1950 as assistant general manager of the Mail and the Times, taking over the top post when Frank Blackler retired the following year.
He resigned in 1967 to devote more time to his other activities, although he remained a director of the newspapers.
He became vice-chairman of Oxfordshire Area Health Authority at a time when the development of the John Radcliffe Hospital was in full swing, health centres were being planned and the Cowley Road Hospital faced closure.
Mr Rowntree started with Oxfam in 1947, became a committee member in 1951, a trustee in 1952 and served as chairman from 1971-77. In 1991, he was elected Chair Emeritus.
In a statement, Oxfam said: "When he retired as chairman, tributes were made to a man who was never too busy, tired or uninterested to discuss the challenges that Oxfam often faced, even late at night and at weekends."
He was a keen ornithologist, a hobby which took him to many parts of Europe.
Mr Rowntree, a Quaker, returned to his native Yorkshire in 1981. He leaves a widow Anna, daughters Jenni and Scilla and son Hugh.
A private funeral service was held on Tuesday.
A memorial service will be held at Friargate Meeting House, York, on Saturday, November 3 at 2pm.