It is with great sadness that LMH recently learned about the death of Jane Day, former Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy. Jane also held distinguished positions within College including Vice-Principal and Senior Tutor.
We are honoured that her husband John has written this tribute about her life and work.
Jane Day - 1940 - 2021 (Classics 1959-63)
Jane Mary Day (née Osborn) was born on April 20th, 1940 in Birmingham. She claimed she could recall the bombs dropping near her house during the war. Her parents were at that time both Congregationalist ministers. They had met at theological training at Mansfield college, Oxford (the Congregationalists had ordained women since 1917). However, her father later joined the Church of England ministry and her mother mostly functioned subsequently as a secondary school Scripture teacher.
Already as a child Jane’s academic prowess was apparent, and she was awarded a Scholarship to study at St Paul’s Girl’s School. She thus received a free education at what was arguably the best girl’s school in the country.
From 1959-63 Jane studied Classics (Literae Humaniores) at Somerville College, Oxford. Although she was a brilliant linguist, especially enjoying Greek, her greatest interest was in Philosophy, in which she excelled. (Ancient History, she felt, had too many facts, though an Ancient Historian would doubtless feel the opposite!) At that time she made good friends with several other Somerville students, friendships which she maintained for well over half a century till the end of her life. Subsequently, she undertook the postgraduate B.Phil. in Philosophy at Oxford, part of which involved her writing of a thesis on Causality. She would later recall with wry humour that the typist repeatedly mistyped ‘causality’ as ‘casualty’ so that the thesis had to be retyped! She did not undertake a doctorate, being advised at that time that it was not necessary for an academic career.
She spent one year as an Assistant Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Leeds (1965-66), a place she enjoyed but was soon heading back to Oxford again. In 1966 Jane became Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at LMH, a position she held until her retirement in 2007. Her central interest was in Plato but also in ancient Greek Philosophy more generally. However, as seems to be common among Oxford Philosophy tutors, she taught over an enormous range, including Plato and Aristotle, Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy from Berkeley to Hume, and Formal Logic. She did write a book on Plato’s dialogue The Meno, which is still making royalties almost thirty years after publication, and she also wrote several articles. However, it cannot be denied that her heart was primarily in her teaching, and in that role she was very popular. Students found in her an encouraging and sympathetic tutor, as well as a stickler for the most rigorous thinking. One student simply wrote on their feedback form about Jane’s teaching, ‘We all love Mrs Day’!
Over the years Jane also undertook a rather heavy administrative burden. In addition to frequent university examining (Philosophy being involved in so many different Schools), she was LMH’s Senior Tutor for five years in the 1980s and Vice-Principal for another five years from 1997-2002, the latter including the arduous organization of a Principalian election.
But it was 1980-81 that saw a most dramatic transformation in her life. From 1979 LMH, which had been the first Oxford college to admit women, became the first women’s college to admit men, a move which she wholeheartedly supported. Soon afterwards, in 1980, a new Theology tutor, a specialist in Old Testament studies, was appointed in the form of Dr (later Prof.) John Day. She was part of the committee which appointed him (one of the college representatives). Although this might sound incredible, he had a strong feeling that Jane would become his future wife already during his brief encounter with her at a reception prior to the actual interview. And indeed, within a few months of his coming up to Oxford they were married in 1981, the first Fellows of an Oxford college to marry each other. They were a perfect match and remained married for 40 years till her death on 24th June, 2021.
Another dramatic transformation in her life occurred in 1990. She was unfortunately unable to have her own children so in 1990 she and John adopted two children, Lisa (aged 7) and Sebastian (aged 5). Both went to university and now Sebastian is a social worker and Lisa works for Oxford council.
It was most unfortunate that illness struck her in the very year that she retired (2007) in the form of Parkinson’s disease. But the first five years of her Parkinson’s were relatively mild, since in that period she was still able to travel widely with her husband, including visits to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Malta and the USA. Little more than a limp was then apparent. But sadly her condition deteriorated from 2012 and she was lovingly cared for at home.
Jane held distinctly liberal views in both politics and religion, and had a great love of classical music. Prior to her final illness she was astonishingly bright, having an IQ of 160 (near genius level!). She always maintained a good sense of humour, and will be sorely missed by those who had the pleasure of knowing her.