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Tributes paid to John Easterling

Tributes have been paid to John Easterling who died on 23 February 2021.

John Easterling. Photo: Trinity College

John Easterling was by training a Classicist, specialising in Ancient Philosophy. He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1958 and was Secretary of Trinity College Council and Tutor for Admissions for many years.

Professor Boyd Hilton said:

He was (I think universally) regarded as a sublime Secretary of Council.  It is an unglamorous role, and typically John did his best to divest it of whatever glamour or drama that it had, but it’s not too much to say that his competence and even infallibility became legendary.

John Easterling was also the third holder of the office of University Draftsman at the Old Schools. One of his major tasks was to support the Syndicate on the Government of the University, chaired by Sir Douglas Wass, set up in 1988, and that of the following Statutes and Ordinances Revision Syndicate, chaired by Mr David Yale.

Of his work as Draftsman, Dr Alan Clark of Fitzwilliam College, who worked very closely with John in the Old Schools, says:

John’s work is reflected in the immaculate pages of successive volumes of the Reporter, and the Statutes and Ordinances. He discharged these duties unflappably and impartially – and usually patiently. His advice was seldom overturned by the Council of the Senate.

As the first Tutor for Admissions at Trinity, John Easterling devised the College procedures for centralising admissions and took a lead role in widening access. He pushed for the admission of women in the early-mid 1970s, and in the early 1980s he led the way in eliminating restricted entrance scholarships. ‘Controversial reforms of that sort benefited from the quiet and unostentatious way in which he pursued them,’ said Professor Hilton.

Professor Richard Hunter recalls that John and his wife Pat, who held the Regius Professorship of Greek from 1994-2001, served as Secretaries of the Greek Play Committee for very many years (they had both acted in the play as undergraduates), and the continuing success of that remarkable institution is, in very important measure, due to their efforts.

Professor Hunter said:

It is as an incomparably efficient and imaginative administrator, both in Trinity and the University, that John will always be remembered. Unflappable, apparently tireless and with a remarkable command of detail and the ability to see where any particular course of action might eventually lead, John helped to guide both institutions through periods of great change. He was a man of great personal kindness who held strong views with a polite gentleness which made those views hard to resist. He is very much missed.

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