A RESPECTED professor has died following a sudden illness.

York St John University Professor Stephen Watson, 57, passed away on January 22, after dedicating his career to improve tourism and heritage for the city's residents.

The father-of-two, described as an "outstanding academic" spent 11 years at the university, teaching business management and tourism management to undergraduates and postgraduate programmes in marketing.

He is survived by his wife Victoria, children Alex and Hannah, and his mother Mavis.

Professor Karen Stanton, vice chancellor at York St John, said: "Professor Watson was an outstanding academic.

"He was a leading expert in cultural heritage management and heritage tourism.

"His community links were very strong, working with groups to enhance heritage and tourism for the benefit of local people.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."

According to his profile on the university's website, Professor Watson's main research interest was "the way that the past is represented and understood in the present through cultural processes including tourism.

"He is a leading expert in this field having published books and papers exploring the interactions between heritage, culture, tourism and communities. "He has extensive experience of working in the public sector and has conducted research for a number of local authorities and other organisations, including English Heritage."

His career saw him teach at universities in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Hull, while he conducted guest lectures in the United States, Spain, Finland and Australia.

A funeral service will take place at York Crematorium tomorrow from 1.40pm.

The family prefer people to wear casual and colourful clothes, with family flowers only.

A plate will be provided at the service and donations will be shared between charities to reflect Professor Watson's love of cultural heritage.