'The Oxford Student' magazine recently featured a profile of St John’s Emeritus Fellow, Professor Donald Russell.
Professor Donald Russell 2013

The Professor of Classical Literature and former Fellow and Tutor, who celebrated his 96th birthday in October, has spent over 200 terms at Oxford University, as both student and tutor, since he first arrived in 1939. He is still teaching undergraduates and contributing to new publications.

In the piece, student Laura Holden interviews Donald about his 75 years in Oxford and the many changes he has witnessed, in admissions, student diversity, daily life, and academic attitudes to teaching and research. Although overwhelmingly positive about the progress he has seen, and firmly against any temptation to turn back the clock, there is one area of change he regrets, and that is that students studying humanities such as English and History are no longer required to learn another language: ‘Not only do they lose the capacity for looking at original sources, but they lose all the enrichment that comes from trying to operate in another language.’

In 2013 the College celebrated the 65th anniversary of Professor Russell’s election in 1948 to a Fellowship, with a reception attended by many of his colleagues and former students. On that occasion he spoke eloquently about those times. ‘What were Fellows up to when I arrived in 1948? Subtract time spent in Common Room, sitting on committees, visiting estates and playing tennis, they spent the rest of their time on what was, and is, and I hope always will be the core business of the College, namely undergraduate education – in other words they were giving their pupils sherry.’ The sherry may have gone, but Donald’s loyalty to his subject, his College and his University remain. 

You can read the profile of Professor Russell in The Oxford Student and download a podcast of the speech he gave at St John’s in 2013.