Balliol College Annual Record 2001

The Viceregent’s Letter

Images from the Record

Other articles published in the print version of the Balliol College Annual Record 2001.

Visitor, Master, Fellows and Lecturers, Preachers in Chapel
Alan Cooper In Death We Trust
The Julian Huxley Research Fellow in Biological Sciences on a project to recover and analyse DNA from ancient specimens
Baruch Blumberg Astrobiology
The former Master on his work as Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute
Bennett Freeman The Diplomacy of Holocaust-era Assets: A Personal Memoir
A former Balliol undergraduate on his contribution to the US Administration’s work to secure reparations and compensation for confiscated Holocaust assets
Obituaries: Sir Richard Southern, by Maurice Keen
‘Jacko’ Jackson, by Jasper Griffin
Peter Brian Whalley, by Alastair Howatson
Sir Laurence Whistler, by Oswyn Murray
Aubrey William Ingleton, by Keith Hannabuss
Willard Quine, by Peter Geach
Gazette: First Year Graduates and Undergraduates
Firsts and Distinctions
University and College Prizes
The Coolidge Atlantic Crossing Trust Awards
Doctorates of Philosophy
The Library
The College Archives
The College
Poetry: Nefertiti
Book Reviews: Susan Harper reviewed by Richard Bingle
C P Blacker reviewed by John Keegan
Christopher Lord reviewed by Alan Montefiore
Adrian Woolfson reviewed by Myles Axton
Alan Montefiore and David Vines reviewed by Tom Bingham
Leslie Woods reviewed by Derrick Crothers
Letters: Bill Haines on British Industry
Richard Mersey on The Balliol Players
Ernest Lee on the Balliol Players
Balliol About: Vikki Jones on working with Médecins Sans Frontières
Lina Nerlander on the Oxford AIDS vaccine initiative
Brendon May on working for the Marine Stewardship Council
Clubs and Societies
Members News: Honours
Births, Marriages and Deaths
News and Notes

The Vicegerent’s Letter

This year we have had a Master, an Acting Master who was also Master-Elect, and for the greater part of the year a Dean and Archivist who was Vicegerent, with an Acting Dean in place for Trinity Term. No wonder the world was at times a bit confused, and I must begin by assuring members of the College that what might have appeared to be turmoil from the outside was quietly ordered within.

I was Vicegerent from 18 August 2000 to 4 January 2001, and again from 20 March 2001; I expect to continue so until mid-September 2001, when Andrew Graham will take up office as Master on his return from the sabbatical leave he has earned so well as Acting Master. I must have had to explain my own position, and the meaning of the term Vicegerent, a hundred times. It is an unfamiliar word, commonly misspelt by inversion of the middle syllable. Actually, if you go to a good dictionary, and Oxford is after all not a bad place to look for one, you will find it: “A person appointed to exercise the authority of another”. There has for five centuries been statutory provision for the Master of Balliol to appoint a Vicegerent with full legal powers to act in his absence or incapacity, subject to the approval of the Visitor if the appointment is for more than three months. An idle AltaVista search for pages including the word scored over five hundred hits, the vast majority of them concerned with authority in the Roman Catholic Church or Islam, but also revealing that Balliol is joined by a small number of other colleges in using it. And it was reassuring to be compared, by way of lexicographic clarification, with the Pope.

The year was a very active one for dinners, receptions and academic functions - a very successful Balliol Society Dinner, the first to which a recent year group was invited as guests; the Usborne Dinner in November, with Boris Johnson as speaker (he will no doubt entertain Parliament enormously too in the coming years); a London Master’s Seminar on the legalisation of cannabis, with Howard Marks and Professor David Grahame-Smith as speakers - these occasions are under the Chatham House Rule, so a discreet veil must be drawn, but I can report that a remarkable degree of pragmatic unanimity emerged; an Oxford Master’s Seminar on fossil DNA, convened by Alan Cooper; a Spring Gaudy (for the years 1947-1953) at which Sir John Keegan spoke with great eloquence; the Snell Dinner; the Greville Smith Society Lunch; the 1919-1946 Connection Lunch; the Inaugural Leonard Stein and Dawkins Prize Lectures and Dinners; the Royal Academy Reception and Private View of the Botticelli Exhibition; a Summer Gaudy (for the years 1987-1990); and finally a special dinner to celebrate the endowment of the Tylor-Harris Fund for Law, on the very deadline for this letter to be in the hands of the Editor.

I would exceed my allocation of space if I allowed myself to enthuse at any length about all of these occasions, so I will restrict myself to three which hit a special note.

The Balliol Men who returned from the War of 1914-1918 had a special sort of camaraderie, which kept the 1919 Club and its annual Dinner going until 1986. Even then, there were lively survivors such as Sir Rex Niven, who suggested that the tradition of an annual gathering of Balliol veterans should be handed on to those who had served in the Second World War. And so the 1919-1946 Connection Lunch was established, and has taken place every year since 1989. By the mid-nineties there were no 1919-ers left, but enough 1939-1945 veterans for a nice party still come, and it was a privilege to host a lively Connection Lunch in April. Sandy Sanderson was convenor, but sadly died a week before the Lunch. It will soon be time to call it a day. There are not enough later generation veterans to take up the baton - but that at least all will agree is a good thing.

The Dawkins Prize for Animal Conservation and Welfare was established by John Dawkins, at least ten of whose family have been members of the College since the mid-nineteenth century, the most recent being his son Richard Dawkins, who has just been elected FRS. The first Prizewinner was Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the authority on the African Elephant who alerted the world to the ivory poaching holocaust. A member of another distinguished Balliol tribe although not himself a Balliol Man, he did not hold that against us and gave a gripping lecture on his life and work, after which we had a terrific dinner party in his honour.

Throughout the year, a campaign led by Sir Michael Burton raised funds from Balliol lawyers to endow the Tylor-Harris Fund for Law. I was especially glad to have been in a position to encourage this initiative, honouring two great Law Tutors and College Officers, and it was wonderfully well timed by the Crown to appoint Don Harris QC honoris causa (a rare distinction - only two such appointments were made in 2001) not long before the dinner we had to celebrate the success of the campaign.

I had the honour of entertaining Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland in the Lodgings when she came to Encaenia to receive an Honorary DCL. She is currently Director-General of WHO, but in the Balliol connection it is of more importance that she was for ten years Prime Minister of Norway, reminding us of our strong connections with that country and two of its Kings.

The year began with a record number of new Fellows - I swore in eleven at the first College Meeting. So many in fact that I will excuse myself from reciting all their names. I have good cause to remember the previous record, because I was a part of it. I was sworn in as the tenth of ten in October 1966. But Fellows slip away too. Again, turnover is such that the listing of all their names seems tedious, but special note should be taken of the distinction of Sir Peter Morris, who has reached retirement from his Chair and Fellowship, only to receive from his peers the ultimate accolade of the Presidency of the Royal College of Surgeons. This also gives the College a unique double: the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians respectively both have Balliol Presidents, as Honorary Fellow Sir George Alberti is President of the Royal College of Physicians.

Congratulations are also due to other colleagues: Frances Kirwan has been elected FRS; Judith Brown has been given an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Natal; Oliver Lyne and Sandie Byrne have been voted this year’s JCR Tutorial Excellence Awards; and Alan Cooper will shortly perform the remarkable feat of stepping straight from his Junior Research Fellowship into a University Readership.

We mourn all our dead, but seven of them made a rather special contribution - Peter Whalley as Estates Bursar and Tutor; Jacko Jackson as Domestic Bursar and learned Argentarius; Sir Laurence Whistler, Honorary Fellow and glass engraver (we are fortunate to have several exquisite examples of his work); Sir Richard Southern, Honorary Fellow and Tutor; Alf Connor, Catering Manager, and Janice Bonasera, Head Housekeeper, who faced their fates open-eyed with courage which was an example to us all; and Roy Skinner, who left a major legacy “for the provision of financial assistance to undergraduates or potential undergraduates”, and whose name has been added to the Bidding Prayer.

The most important Balliol event of the year, indeed probably the most important for many years, was the announcement that the University was to have an Internet Institute, a world first based in Balliol. This hit the international press, and Andrew Graham has already written about it in Floreat Domus, so there is little for me to say except to point out that it will be an entirely novel complex multi-disciplinary project involving public as well as private funding. The fact that it has reached its present exciting stage is down to Andrew’s leadership, imagination and energy, and is a major personal achievement for him as well as a great thing for the College. We have elected Dame Stephanie Shirley, the principal Benefactor, to a Foundation Fellowship which she has accepted “with zest”, and we look forward to the stimulus she will give.

I am glad to be able to report that the first cycle of the Access Bursary scheme, which Andrew mentioned last year, was a great success, and we hope to continue and enhance it. It is partly financed by the Annual Fund, which has already reached £120,000 for 2001. The essence of the scheme is that, after admissions decisions have been made, students are invited to apply for a Bursary of £1000 pa for the duration of their time up. Eleven Access Bursaries were made in 2000 on financial need criteria alone. A further dozen awards will be made next year.

The Development Office has had a good year, but we were sorry Stella Waterman moved on; she has been replaced by Tom Bewley (a Trinity man!) as Alumni Relations Officer. There has also been turnover in other key positions; Jo Whitfield, a wonderfully cheerful, bustling and efficient Senior Tutor’s Secretary, has migrated to Linacre; Robert Miles has been succeeded as Head Porter by David Yeatman, who also cuts a fine figure as a University Bedel; and Katherine Rainforth has been appointed in Alf Connor’s place, with the additional responsibility of managing conference business, which we need to develop.

In sporting achievement, Dan Snow, President of OUBC, was head and shoulders above the rest of the College in more ways than one and got a First in Schools to follow his First in Mods. But we have many other athletic successes to our credit, and they span a wide range, from our Tough Guys, top UK university team, to Greg Mucklow and Claire Ferguson winning the Cha Cha event in dancesport cuppers. It has not been easy for an unreconstructed sixties Balliol Man to be serious about dancesport or ladies’ rugger, but I do assure my contemporaries that I have made it.

Our people go 32 Firsts in Finals, 32 Distinctions or Firsts in other examinations, and over 40 DPhils between them; splendidly par for the course, and very superior though not at all effortless. We were top of the Norrington Table. All our candidates in Physics and Philosophy got Firsts - and one of them, Neville Eisenberg, President of the JCR 1998-1999, finished the New York Marathon in a good time not long before Schools. But I know too that almost every year there is an unsung triumph low in the lists where someone has completed the course against all the odds. It gave me special pleasure to see several such people in fine form at the 1987-1990 Gaudy.

We decided to elect Andrew to follow Colin Lucas as Master more than a year ago - Andrew has modestly said that this surprised him, but I do not think the outcome of the sifting surprised anyone else, because by that time he had proved himself during nearly three years as Acting Master. The decision we took last summer, however, could not be legally binding, and it had to be followed by formalities in the Chapel and admission by the Visitor. All that took place on 11 January, with the solemnity due to a protocol which is at least half a millennium old, and was followed by a terrific and far from solemn party given by Andrew and Peggotty.

From a parochial and personal point of view, it was sad to hear that Colin had been asked to accept a second term as Vice-Chancellor and therefore felt he had to resign as Master. Few Masters have been Vice-Chancellors in the last two centuries, but the few are names of great distinction - only Parsons, Jenkyns, Jowett, and Lindsay. Colin is cast in their mould, and we are proud of what he has achieved by easing in fundamental changes to University governance. There is reflected glory for Balliol in that. And what is good for the University must also be good for the College. He has been elected to a Fellowship at All Souls, and we have elected him to an Honorary Fellowship to take effect immediately when the Mastership passes from him to Andrew, which for precisionists will be at midnight on 30 September.

When I stood to speak at the Freshers Dinner, I was able to say that it was, to the very day, 40 years since my letter of acceptance from the Tutor for Admissions had dropped through the door. It had seemed like a ticket to heaven. Things have not been quite as consistently idyllic as that, but it did turn out to be a ticket for life. Forty years on I am still here and do not feel clapped out yet. It was a colossal privilege to be given the reins of the College to which I owe so much for a season - only ten months all told, but at least one actual Master had less and left practically no trace of his stewardship behind him. I count myself honoured to have been asked to bridge the gap between two old friends. I salute them both, and look forward to a year’s sabbatical to get my breath back.

John Jones
24 August 2001

Images from the Record

The front cover

The brass shown on the front cover is in memory of John Seymour, who died abroad in 1842 or 1843 while still an undergraduate, exploring classical sites in the vacation. It was designed by A W N Pugin and is the only example of his work actually executed at Balliol, although he also produced copious designs for an over-the-top Gothic Balliol which were rejected (but which survive and were used as a source of inspiration by Waterhouse).

Front cover

The back cover

The brass shown on the back cover is a memorial to James Riddell, Fellow and Tutor, who died in 1866.

Back cover

Balliol from the air

Balliol from the air