John White, OxHums chair 2006-2018 – an appreciation


John and his wife Viv had been active humanists since university days so it wasn’t surprising that they joined Oxford Humanists in 2004 when they moved into the area. I joined about that time too and I remember being disappointed to find it was such a small group.

Then in 2006 John was elected to the Chair and things began to change. .Our membership and the attendance at meetings grew, largely through John’s assiduous use of email to keep in touch. At the same time, he gave unstinting support to the student Atheist, Secularist and Humanist organisations which were active in Oxford’s two universities for some years, as he also did to the short-lived Sunday Assembly.

At a time when the OxHums committee were somewhat divided about how much, if at all, they wanted to fraternise with faith groups, John got to know a number of significant people in a variety of faith groups which has undoubtedly helped to raise the profile of humanism in the community. I am very pleased that John is happy to continue to be our representative on the Oxford Council of Faiths.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of John’s tenure as Chair is that, using his networking abilities to the full, he finally persuaded the City Chaplain that Humanists should have full representation in the Remembrance Day celebrations.

A great skill of John’s is his ability to write persuasive letters so whenever the theme of religion rears its head in the ‘letters to the editor’ page of the Oxford Times he (and two other OxHums members) are always quick to enter a debate in print.

John has also spoken on local radio, putting a humanist point of view on a number of issues. The last public appearance before he retired was as a speaker in a debate at the Oxford Union, opposing the motion: ‘This House believes we cannot thrive without religion’. The motion was defeated. What a great way to end his career as our Chair!

We showed our appreciation of all his work for OxHums by presenting him with £200 of garden tokens.

We all hope John will enjoy having more time in his garden and we are deeply grateful for his many years as our Chair.
Penny Jaques, Chair 2018