Talking to the Prince of a Wales at the William Chambers exhibition in the Courtauld Gallery, 1996
Talking to the Prince of a Wales at the William Chambers exhibition in the Courtauld Gallery, 1996

When I first arrived at the Institute, as a lecturer, John Newman seemed an enviably mature figure, already fast becoming a Deputy Director of the future. My memories of staff meetings then (they were much less frequent than our present-day Academic Boards) oscillate between Christopher Hohler's laughter and John. His particular combination of genial good humour and seriousness brought to those gatherings the promise of something close to good order. It was a time when (despite Anthony Blunt's presiding cool) Christopher Hohler's anarchic love of the absurd always threatened any idea that we might have gathered to decide things.

John was, of course, already a name in architectural history: an admired contributor to Sir Nikolas Pevsner's giant catalogue of the buildings of England. He was also already, as a teacher, a magnet for any who wanted a future in the English heritage industry (an oxymoron which I am not sure he would endorse). Never having been taught by John, I can only imagine what it has been that then and since has drawn generations of students to him. Acknowledging the obvious attraction of his authority as a scholar, I imagined it was also that open, genial aspect I saw so often at staff meetings making even the most unwelcome realities acceptable; until, that is, the afternoon I interviewed applicants for his M.A. option with him. Then I saw that the seriousness which has made him so influential in the policy-making of the Institute is, in his own speciality, backed by a steely sharpness, a critical sense of purpose which can quickly over-ride that apparently amenable good humour.

Over three decades and more, John's presence at the Institute has been a benign one, but it has been his toughness as a scholar, teacher and administrator that has, I suspect, made him so valuable for us. His record as an architectural historian, and as one of the leading mentors of the discipline in Britain, speaks for itself. I am one of many in the Institute who can speak for the enormous contribution he has also made to its past and its future.

Chris Green

John Newman joined the teaching staff in 1967 as a lecturer. He was appointed Reader in 1987. He was Deputy Director from 1989 to 1994. He retires in July 2001.