John Gardner at Home

Memories from Louise Gullifer

Dear John,

I’ve just heard the grim news about your illness. Rather than dwell on it, which I imagine you don’t want to do, I thought I would share some memories as Jennifer suggested.

Thinking about it, not only do we go back a long way, but I realised that I owe my whole academic career largely to you! It is now over 25 years that you organised the commercial law fellowship at HMC funded by the Baring Foundation which I got and which led to three very happy years at BNC with you and John. I remember your amazing room (especially the ceiling), the Lonsdale college sherry (thanks to the Morse/Robert Gasser connection), the marathon admissions interview process (John Rowatt made us interview every applicant) and (almost as marathon) GB sessions when we ‘younger’ fellows sat at the back and tried to amuse ourselves with clandestine reading while the senior ones droned on. And then it was also due to your recommendation that Ralph asked if I could fill in for a year at HMC when Jane Hanna left suddenly and, of course, I’ve been there ever since.

There was also the LNAT, which, despite the more recent scepticism, was an extraordinary cooperation between leading law schools, brokered, of course, entirely by you. Those first meetings had a really pioneering spirit, and you did such a fantastic job of setting it all up. I remember we all had to had a crash course in franchising law and practice and I had to do battle with the legal people at Oxford who didn’t like the idea of Oxford being a shareholder in this company limited by guarantee (another crash course for me in the wilder stretches of company law). You also wrote most of the website copy explaining to applicants what the test was about, how to practice etc. which was probably the best account of how to do critical thinking I have ever seen. The benefit of the LNAT to Oxford has been, in my view, enormous: it means we don’t have to interview everyone, and has been particularly useful for HMC as a way of identifying extremely talented mature people with non-traditional qualifications.

I’m very sorry that I haven’t seen as much of you in recent years (although it was, of course, an absolute pleasure to have Jennifer as a student at HMC, and it has been lovely to bump into her from time to time and get news of all your family). It was great to see you at Tony’s funeral, especially as your news was then so upbeat.

I should also say (as Vice Principal) that Harris Manchester owe you a great debt for help over the years: you have been a wonderful supporter as the college has gone from strength to strength.

Much love to you and Jennifer,