John Gardner at Home

Memories from Achas Burin

Dear Jenny,

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you. We met at the conference in Madrid in July 2016, which Timothy Endicott helped organise, and I am one of John’s DPhil students.

My friend Raquel Barradas de Freitas shared with me your email of yesterday, and I hope you don’t mind me writing out of the blue.

I just wanted to send you the attached photograph, taken in 2013. It was taken at the King’s Arms to celebrate the end of the academic year 2012-13 for the Philosophical Foundations of the Common Law class of that year. We grandly called it PhilosophiKAl Foundations Drinks.

I doubt that John remembers the evening, and that is in a sense why I am writing. I am sure he came along to the drinks on our invitation purely as a matter of course – just because of the way he is, his beliefs about teaching and what he owes to students, and his down-to-earthness. I think that many of the kindest acts are done not because of particularly deep interpersonal connections with the recipient, but because of the commitments of the doer. I am sure I am not the only one of John’s students to write, but I think that I will be speaking for many who have not spoken themselves, and who John does not remember individually. We were so thrilled that he came to the drinks, and sort of starstruck.

Some of us got to know John a little better since then: I and Leo Boonzaier (also in the photograph and also one of John’s DPhil students) came back two years after the photograph was taken to start our DPhils with John. Both of us grew up in Africa. Speaking for myself, I would never have done a DPhil were it not for John – it never occurred to me at any point in my life, it was just beyond my horizons. The thought that someone like me could do one did not occur to me until I was doing my BCL dissertation (and asked for John’s advice with that). Nothing in my story is particularly remarkable of itself, but the point is that there are many many many students whose lives John will have touched in ways that were utterly forgettable to him but profoundly affected the person whose life it was.

I hope John knows this too, and I am sure he does, but I do not want to trouble him directly with it as I know he must have many other things to be doing.

With all warmest wishes,