St John's College Alumni eNewsletter - August 2023

Message from the President August 2023

Message from the President

Dear Friends,

As I come to the end of my first year as President, there is much upon which reflect. It has been a rollercoaster of a year. I have come to terms with the confusing language – Battel (different spelling) in Scotland means a very different thing to Oxford’s version. I have witnessed curious customs and practices – singing from our wonderful choir at the top of our tower first thing on May Day, for example.

What a strange but wonderful year it has been, and what a magical place filled with phenomenal people. I have been overjoyed to see so much success across the College with marvellous achievements from students, alumni, Fellows and professional staff alike. We have laughed, we have cried, we have commiserated and we have congratulated – everything that a family does to get by – and of course we have also welcomed our new College pets.

To those of you I have met in the past year, thank you for welcoming me into the St John's community so warmly. For those of you who I am yet to meet, I look forward to doing so soon.

All best wishes


Professor Dame Sue Black, Baroness Black for Strome


Snapshots of College Life 2023

Founder's Lecture

I was honoured to give the annual Founder's Lecture earlier this year.

The annual Founder's Lecture was created in 2005 as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations in College. It had not been possible for the lecture to take place in recent years, which made it a greater honour to oversee its return.

Many of us are familiar with the fictionalised world of forensic investigations from books, television and films. However, my lecture focused on the reality of this field, drawing from my experiences which range from the excavation of the mass graves in Kosovo during the war crimes investigations, through body recovery from mass fatality events to single deaths associated with murder and suicide.

If you weren't able to attend the lecture, you can watch it on YouTube.


Meet Case, Baylie and Laud - the newest editions to the President's Lodgings! As the cats are now venturing across College, we put together a quick identification guide in case you bump into one when visiting:

  • If he is sleek, black and white, with a kink at the end of his tail and has a little Charlie Chaplin moustache – it is Case.
  • If he is more grey in colour, fluffy and has a huge bushy brush of a tail – it is Laud.
  • If he has a little brown nose, lots of white on his tummy and mackerel like stripes down the side – it is Baylie.


I was very pleased to see the recent results from the Oxford Student Union sustainability demand tracker Sustainability demands ( and from CLOC (Climate League of Oxford and Cambridge) CLOC - Home (

The College has taken a number of actions in the last couple of years to focus on responsible investment, to set and monitor targets on a number of carbon reduction initiatives, and to plan in a meaningful way to target net zero as soon as possible, and by 2040 at the latest. Students, professional and academic staff, and alumni have all played an important role in helping us consider these complex issues and to take action.

A big thank you to everyone who has been involved. You can find out more about the detail on our website Environmental sustainability | St John's College, Oxford.

Meeting alumni

I have been delighted to have the opportunity to meet so many of you over the past 12 months - there have been six (!) gaudies, retirement events for your former tutors, events to thank our most generous donors, and most recently we welcomed back St John's Rhodies for a drinks reception in the newly refurbished Canterbury Quad.

The events calendar looks equally packed for next year, and I look forward to welcoming many more of you back to you College!