OBITUARY: Sir Geoffrey Warnock

As Principal of Hertford College from 1971 to 1988 Geoffrey Warnock presided over a crucial stage in the transformation of what was once one of smallest, poorest, and least regarded of Oxford men's colleges into a mixed, middle- sized college with sound finances, new buildings, an expanding fellowship, a progressive admissions policy and good academic results, writes John Torrance.

Although some of the measures that benefited Hertford were in place before his arrival, their successful fruition owned much to his careful, clear- sighted and good-humoured government. Already known for his administrative efficiency while Senior Tutor at Magdalen, he now showed rare qualities of chairmanship and leadership which led to his choice as Vice-Chancellor of the university in 1981.

He steered Oxford's Hebdomadal Council, as he had the college, with an imperturbable authority that minimised debate by the unfailing fairness and reasonableness with which it was exercised. His clarity of presentation, shrewd judgement, modest dignity and friendliness were widely appreciated, both in and outside the university. The least pompous of men, given to almost self- caricaturing understatement in matters of personal conviction, his conduct of business nevertheless left no one in doubt of his awareness that questions of expediency often conceal deeper issues involving the values of which universities are guardians. His sense of right and wrong, when roused, was robust and unerring.

His four years in office coincided with the first round of cuts in university funding, heralding the campaign by successive Conservative governments to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of higher education. Although Oxford's official response to the cuts was measured, in unofficial pronouncements Geoffrey Warnock made no secret of the sombre view he took of the future of British universities if it were to depend wholly on such considerations.

He returned to this theme briefly in his last speech, delivered at the recent opening of Warnock House, Hertford's new student residence on the Isis near Folly Bridge. The speech finished on a valedictory note, and when he died 12 days later it was hard not to believe that, with characteristic firmness and courtesy, he had held off the advance of an unrelenting illness just long enough not to disappoint his family and the many friends, colleagues and well-wishers gathered for the occasion.

Geoffrey James Warnock, philosopher: born Leeds 16 August 1923; Fellow by Examination, Magdalen College, Oxford 1949, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy 1953-71 (Emeritus Fellow 1972-80, Honorary Fellow 1980-95); Fellow and Tutor, Brasenose College, Oxford 1950-53; Principal, Hertford College, Oxford 1971-88 (Honorary Fellow 1988-95); Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University 1981-85; Kt 1986; married 1949 Mary Wilson (created 1985 Baroness Warnock; two sons, three daughters); died Axford, Wiltshire 8 October 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor