John Gardner at Home

Memories from Leah Trueblood

Dear Jenny,

My most sincere thanks for circulating the update about John. It is so generous of you to share with us where he is at and I'm very grateful. I'm sorry for not writing sooner. I wanted to say the right thing but it's become clear to me over the past few weeks that there is no right thing to say.

The memory that keeps coming to mind lately is a seminar in room E of the Law Faculty when I first started in Oxford in the autumn of 2013. Audra had slipped a stuffed, white toy seal into John's bag as a surprise. When he opened his bag to get his computer out popped this big fluffy seal. John gave it a loving pat and it sat beside him on the table in the seminar, happily observing our comings and goings. That is one of my enduring memories of John. I think it captures some of his whimsy and sense of fun. It is also emblematic of my memories of John in that his family were always with him. They were ever-present in the stories he told and the ideas he expressed. It is so clear to every person he meets that he loves and adores his family. His family is always with him, in the form of stuffed toy seals or otherwise, wherever he is and whatever he was doing. I'm not sure of much, but I'm sure this will always be the case.

Thank you again for sharing John's update. I am so grateful for your incredible act of generosity.


Dear John,

I was teaching jurisprudence yesterday and a student asked a question that made me think of you. The student asked me what made a great philosopher. I told them about you. I said that great philosophers offer challenging and compelling ideas. They communicate their ideas in a way that resonates with people who have many different experiences and intuitions. Great philosophers are great listeners and great teachers, excited rather than frightened by difficult questions. Above all, I think that great philosophers are good people. They are patient and generous with students when they are struggling (as you were with me.) They find joy and fun in doing their work at a high level and love sharing that with others. They make the world better through their ideas and example.

I am so grateful that whenever a student asks me what makes a great philosopher, I'm able to tell them about you.

It is also a truth universally acknowledged that great philosophers bring stuffed seals to seminars that their daughter hid in their bag as a surprise. I don’t know much, but I know that for sure.