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​Rhodes Scholars Pay Tribute to Warden Robin Fletcher

Dr Robin Fletcher, who was Warden of Rhodes House from 1980-89, sadly passed away on 15 January 2016. Since then, tributes from Rhodes Scholars around the world have been flooding in, remembering the kindness and warm hospitality showed by both Dr Fletcher and his wife, Mrs Jinny Fletcher. His funeral will be held at Aberdeen crematorium on 4 February at 2pm.

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Dr Fletcher was in the navy during the Second World War, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Later he became a University of Oxford Lecturer in Modern Greek, Domestic Bursar of Trinity College, and Olympic medallist for hockey before taking up the Wardenship at Rhodes House. During his time as Warden, the very successful 80th anniversary celebrations of the Rhodes Scholarships were held in 1983, and new Rhodes Scholarships were offered in a number of countries. The current Warden of Rhodes House, Charles Conn (Massachusetts & Balliol 1983), was himself a Scholar on stipend during Dr Fletcher's Wardenship. He commented: "I remember Dr Fletcher and Jinny for their quiet and gentle kindness. It is easy to forget how disorienting the first term can be in Oxford, and Jinny's teas were an oasis for many in that turbulent period." The warm welcome which both Dr and Mrs Fletcher offered to new Scholars has been repeatedly remarked upon, and how they helped Scholars feel genuinely at home in Oxford. They introduced a new tradition of Scholar Sunday lunches and often hosted Scholars during the Christmas period. 

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Ila Burdette (Georgia & Christ Church 1981) recalled: "Waden Fletcher was extraordinary. He quietly and professionally guided all of us through the bewildering mazes of Oxford academia, counselling and smoothing the way for us as students. I only realised much later what infinite tact and skill this required when I had a view of the enterprise from a Scholarship Committee member’s seat. The Warden’s patience, determination, and sense of humour kept us all on course. I also deeply appreciated the Warden’s care in assembling and leading an extraordinary team at Rhodes House. It seemed to me that every member of our class found a kindred soul among the staff there, someone who reached out to us offering support and tea just when we needed it. The Warden and Mrs Fletcher made sure we always had a welcoming home base. Again, at the time, although I could see the energy poured into the great pots of soup served up at our Scholar dinners, I didn’t realize the full extent of the Fletchers’ attention. Later as a Committee member, I read the Warden’s remarkably incisive reports on the individual Scholars we’d sent him – and understood what a deliberate devotion it had taken to know and shepherd each of us all along. I count myself very lucky to have been in Oxford during Warden Fletcher’s watch. Knowing him was one of the great gifts of the Scholarship, one that made all the others possible."

Elleke Boehmer (South Africa-at-Large & St John's 1985) remarked: "Many warm and grateful memories of Dr Robin Fletcher, and Jinny Fletcher. I had many reasons to appreciate his quiet and considered support, and attention to the Rhodes Scholarships across Africa. And how kind they were as hosts in Rhodes House, including of often overawed Scholar parents, like my late mother. Rest in great peace, Robin and Jinny."

Andrew Lynk (Maritimes & Balliol 1983) remembered his guidance: "As a Rhodes Scholar and recently qualified medical doctor, I struggled with my initial choice of study, examining pregnant sheep in a lab for causes of premature birth. Discouraged, Dr Fletcher graciously let me try my hand at economics for the last half of my first year (a somewhat better but not quite satisfying experience). Then for my last year, the Warden allowed me to commute to London to study for an MSc in Tropical Medicine. Third time lucky, this changed my life. Shortly after graduating in June 1985, I was off to The Sudan, with Save the Children Fund UK, to care for 5000 starving Ethiopian children, in a refugee camp, during the great (man-made) famine of the mid 1980's. I noticed a definite twinkle in Dr Fletcher's eyes, shortly after returning from 6 months working in the Ethiopian refugee camp, as I was giving a slide show at Rhodes House on my experience. His patience, and wisdom in supporting my erratic course of studies had paid off! These early experiences then directed me to a wonderful career in pediatrics and child health advocacy. Now a mentor myself to younger physicians and aspiring students, I will always remember Dr. Fletcher's patience, kindness and wisdom to give young Scholars several chances to "get it right". I will also fondly remember Mrs Fletcher for her warmth and kindness. What a wonderful duo, and how lucky were all we 1980's Rhodes Scholars, to be blessed with their guidance."