Sir John Lyons 1932-2020

Sir John Lyons

It is with great sadness that the College has to report the death of Sir John Lyons on 12 March 2020 after a long period of ill health. He was 87. He studied Classics at Christ’s College before embarking on an academic career. A world class scholar in the field of linguistics, he was a Fellow of the British Academy and the recipient of honorary degrees both inside and outside the UK. In 1987 he was knighted ‘for services to the study of linguistics’.

As Master from 1984-2000, he will be remembered with great affection by many alumni. The contribution he and his wife Danielle made to the life of students was far above the ordinary, whether it was in sport (he had a Half Blue in Athletics), music, drama or simply offering support and encouragement where it was needed. Their team effort was also critical to the success of the nascent Alumni & Development Office. They committed themselves wholeheartedly to this hugely important new aspect of College life, culminating in the celebration of the 650th Anniversary and Appeal.

From what today would be called a disadvantaged background and the first of his family to enter higher education, John also never forgot how much the College owed to its staff. He remained modest and approachable. With his learning and interests, he was uniquely qualified to lead the College in a golden era of academic and sporting achievement.

He and Danielle retired to France in 2000, settling finally in Vichy. He is survived by wife Danielle, daughters Caroline and Kathleen, and grandchildren Chloe and Edward.

Details of a memorial service will be announced in due course.