Hertford alumnus and former Geography tutor, Dr Jim Houston, celebrates his 100th birthday!

We send our warmest wishes and congratulations to Hertford alumnus and former Geography tutor, Dr Jim Houston, who celebrates his 100th birthday today. Dr Houston matriculated in 1945 to read for a DPhil, with the thesis title of The Social History of the Huerta of Valencia. He remained at Hertford for the next 20 years, becoming a Fellow in Geography and taking on the role of Bursar from 1967-1970. A man of deep Christian faith, he left Oxford – and Geography – to join Regent’s College, a graduate school of Christian Studies in British Columbia, where he was Principal from 1970 – 1978.  

An image of Dr Houston taken during his student days at Hertford College.

We asked Dr Houston’s students for their recollections of him, and their memories (some of which are shared below) are of a kind, thoughtful and compassionate man who had a defining influence on his students. Many recalled stimulating and academically rigorous tutorials, as well as invitations to Sunday lunch with Jim and his family. Moreover, he supported his students through challenging times, from navigating the transition to Oxford life to the death of a loved one.  

“Tutorials with Dr Houston were a particular pleasure: stimulating and encouraging. I learned from him not so much about geography as about life. His Christian faith was deep. Although he belonged to an austere tradition, his own outlook was enquiring and inclusive. ‘It’s all about personal relationships,’ he would say, in his dry Scottish accent. He has been a great influence on me, and I am very grateful.” (Roger Clarke, 1966) 

An image of Dr Houston.

“In the simplest of terms, Dr. Houston, Jim, shaped my life. From 1963 to 1966 Jim was my geography tutor at Hertford College and a gentle inspirationalist. Beyond the specific scope of geography, he taught me to analyse and comprehend interrelationships in complex systems and to be creative, skills that have served me well in my professional career and personal life.” (Derek Winstanley, 1963) 

“Unfortunately he remained our tutor for only that first year as he made the decision to move to Vancouver to work at the newly founded Regents College. I still recall clearly helping to pack the large container with their worldly goods, and thinking what a courageous act it was, to take his family half- way round the world. Dr Houston is a man of deep faith, a kind and generous person, who I suspect has had a significant impact on the lives of many people.” (Rev John Rutter, 1968) 

A recent photograph of Dr Houston.

Please join us in wishing Dr Houston a very happy birthday as he reaches his centenary! 


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