It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of alumnus and Waynflete Fellow Mahlon ‘Sandy’ Apgar.
Sandy came to Magdalen in 1965 and maintained close ties with the College throughout his life. He was a huge supporter of the College and had been both a member of our Investment Committee and part of the team that helped set up the strategy and structure for what would become the Oxford Science Park.
Our thought are with his family at this time.
Below are Sandy’s recollections of his time at Magdalen and its effect on his professional life.
I entered Magdalen based on the recommendation of a Dartmouth professor who thought it to be simply the most beautiful and historic collegiate place in Britain. Coming from one of the most beautiful and historic colleges in America, this was high praise indeed.
Upon my arrival at Magdalen, I was immediately taken by the charm of its Cloister; the serenity of the Chapel, infused with the Choir’s magical sounds at Evensong; the engaging cacophony of Dinner conversation in Hall; the naturalism of the Deer Park and Addison’s Walk; and the sheer pleasantness of picnicking and punting on the Cherwell.
Unlike many classmates, I enrolled at Oxford to pursue a self-financed, independent research project that was then styled as a BLitt, leading ultimately to a DPhil. I had hoped to reside within the Historic College but initially was consigned to the Waynflete Building, an ironic twist as I am now a Waynflete Fellow and an avowed critic of that era in the built environments of Britain and the US which are so devoid of the grace, charm and texture of their predecessors. It was such an insensitive experience that I wound up withdrawing from that building, climbing the steep hill to Headington most evenings, and rooming with others in a smallish house with a commanding view of the ancient University and its pastoral environs.
The Magdalen affiliation had a profound effect on me then which has continued through my later professional life, as I have published the results of my client work and independent research on the British New Towns, pragmatically and prolifically, yet harbored no academic aspirations or pretensions in pursuing these. The New Towns remain one of Britain’s crowning public policy achievements, which I have chronicled in various articles and book chapters. Their lessons inform contemporary policies in many countries that are challenged to house their growing populations, not simply through new buildings to shelter people and activities but also through social and community services that support them as they aim to improve their lives.
I have stayed connected with Magdalen in several roles. Magdalen’s late President, Anthony Smith, CBE, invited me to join the College’s Investment Committee at an especially opportune time. The Fellows were facing the prospect of rising costs with a diminishing endowment comprised mainly of aging corporate securities. Yet they had inherited large property holdings which, in common with many British institutions of that day, held substantial latent value. Over the ensuing several years, I worked with a committee of Fellows and the College’s property advisors to develop a strategy and structure for what has become the Oxford Science Park and is by far the College’s most important asset in securing its financial future.
My Magdalen classmate of nearly sixty years, Richard Danzig, has been an enduring inspiration from our earliest dinners in College, through his incisive mind, compassionate values, eloquent pen, and never-failing wit. Together with fellow Oxonian Philip Lader, Richard was responsible for my appointment in the Clinton Administration to privatize the US Army’s housing and thus improve its economics and the quality-of-life of thousands of American military Service members and their families.
I was fortunate to have had a sabbatical of sorts at the invitation of the late Anthony Hopwood, Dean of the Said Business School, who recognized that they had no MBA-level course in real estate and welcomed my proposal to start one. What we had envisioned as a smallish, Oxford-style tutorial seminar blossomed into the University’s first fully-fledged MBA course in Real Estate with over sixty graduates enrolled. To coach and teach this ambitious group, my lovely wife Anne and I decamped for a term, found a charming top-floor flat overlooking the Oxford Castle and a tributary of the ISIS, opened the Oxford bulletin over morning coffee each day, decided which of the many programs we would attend, and planned our afternoon strolls through the City Market or the many shops and stalls that dotted the Town Centre. We took full advantage of my chair at Magdalen’s High Table, preceded of course by Sherry in the President’s Lodgings, accompanied by a very fine claret of the day, and followed by Port and Madeira. There are few experiences in life quite like dining in an Oxford College at High Table, and the thought that this was the daily fare of generations of Fellows continues to surprise and delight me.
My latest, and quite possibly last, visit to those hallowed halls occurred in January (2023) at the behest of Magdalen’s new President, Dinah Rose, KC, when I attended a glorious “Festal Choral Evensong” to Dedicate the new Chapel Organ, bequeathed by Anthony Smith, followed by a High Table Dinner in Hall, the distinction of a Latin Grace, and the table set with the College’s collection of historic silver plate. It was a special joy to be accompanied by our younger son, Jamie, already an accomplished Organist and Church Music Director, with his spirited wife, Melanie, also a Berkeley-educated Musicologist; and to dine in the company of classmate Michael Jay, GCMG, whose diplomatic career was capped as Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I close with enduring respect and affection for Oxford’s people and places which have helped to shape who I have become and the modest contributions I have been honored to make.