Celebrating Professor Oliver Taplin

05 February 2024

Alumni and friends came to College to celebrate the 80th birthday of Professor Oliver Taplin and to mark his 50th anniversary as a Tutorial Fellow.

The day’s celebrations kicked off with a pop-up display in the Old Library, curated by Anne Chesher, which showcased some of Oliver’s work and some rare gems from the collection, including fragments of the New Testament dating back to the 2nd century AD, a 1529 edition of Virgil, and a 12th-century manuscript of Cassiodorus with a fascinating connection to Thomas Becket.

Attendees then enjoyed performances in the auditorium, including a dance by choreographer Marie-Louise Crawley (1998), readings from The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus translated by Oliver, and talks from Professor Fiona Macintosh, Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, and Professor Katherine Harloe (1996), Director of the Institute of Classical Studies.

The Choir performed choral odes from Sophocles’ Antigone composed by Alex Silverman in the afternoon and sang a wonderful Evensong in Chapel. After Evensong, there was a reception in the President’s Lodgings, followed by a formal dinner in Hall.

During dinner, Tutorial Fellow Laura Swift spoke about her time as Magdalen as a Classics student, studying under Oliver, and about Oliver’s lasting legacy in the Classics Department. Michael Cardwell (1977), one of Oliver’s very first students, then shared stories of Oliver and Magdalen from the 1970s, and Alice Hamilton (2007) who recalled, during her speech, her diary entry from their first ever tutorial, “First tute done. Very scary, very brilliant. I’m so lucky I’m here.”

Oliver then spoke about the last fifty years of working with students – his reflections on his teaching, his joy in recounting the geniuses he’d known throughout his time at Magdalen, and his pride in all of his former students who’ve gone on to do amazing things.

With a spirit of reunion, nostalgia, and cultural exchange there was no better way to celebrate the legacy of such an important and well-respected Tutorial Fellow as Professor Oliver Taplin.