In memory of Rev Dr John Hughes

Image credit: Jesus College

Rev Dr John Hughes, Dean of Chapel at Jesus College, lost his life in a car accident on Sunday afternoon.

Dr Hughes touched the lives of hundreds of students – not only as Dean of Chapel, but also as a Director of Studies, supervisor and leader of pastoral care.

Professor Ian White, the Master of Jesus College released a statement in which he avowed that, “The loss of John Hughes is acutely felt as the life of the College was greatly enriched by him.”

He went on to laud Dr Hughes as “both an outstanding academic who inspired the students he taught, and a faithful priest and pastor who touched profoundly all those with whom he came into contact”.


Dr Hughes was the committed dean of Jesus College Chapel.    Credit: Jesus College

Here, some of those who benefitted from Dr Hughes’ wisdom, warmth and wit share their memories. Several members of Jesus College Chapel Choir told The Cambridge Student of Dr Hughes’ outstanding commitment as a Dean of Chapel:

 “He always warmly thanked the choir for singing, after every single service, and regularly invited everyone for breakfast in his room after Sunday Eucharist.

He was also much loved by the young choristers - after each service, he'd ask them a question about the reading, answered with great enthusiasm, and the boy who had answered the most at the end of the term received the Dean's medal, which was worn with great pride

John was extremely friendly, and his life touched people throughout the college, not just those who visited chapel. At the start of the year, he invited all the Freshers, in groups, to ‘Dean's drinks’, where he made an effort to get to know everyone. His favourite story was about how he once fell into a six foot deep hole in college, and had to be rescued by Adam the porter!”
Hattie Hunter

"The death of John Hughes was both shocking and extremely upsetting to myself and the rest of the choir.  John was a great friend to us, having supported us on many choir tours, and he will be sorely missed for his intelligence, affability and sense of humour."
Louis Wilson

"Nobody ever had a bad word to say about John. He had the remarkable ability to make anyone feel at ease very quickly. But he was also very witty and charming - and his boyish cheekiness came through in his Doctor Who themed sermons and new takes on church festivals -  on the morning of Pentecost this year, John announced that he had bought a cake to celebrate the birthday of the church!”

John genuinely cared about everybody - his drinks parties for freshers ensured that he knew everybody in college - and he always made sure to say hello to me when we passed in the street, often stopping to chat to me about how I was, and even taking pride in my results this year.

The college will be very different next year without him. He is already so missed."
Emma Kavanagh


Dr Hughes contributed enormously to the success of Jesus College Chapel Choir.     Credit: Jesus College

"John was perfect for his role as pastoral leader of the College. You didn’t have to talk to him about your worries to feel his warmth and care for you, because it came across in everything he said and did. Through his kindness and good humour, he bound together the whole community at Jesus, not just chapelgoers, but all the students, Fellows and staff.

In the Choir, we were privileged to spend lots of time with him in Chapel and on tours, and he was very fun to be with. I remember after the Easter Vigil this year he solemnly opened a prayer book in the vestry and blessed the Easter eggs: ‘Lord, bless these eggs for which the Choir will hunt, the fruits of the earth which they shall enjoy...’! His gatherings and parties were brilliant (he welcomed the freshers with cider and cream tea) and he was always ready to enter into debate on anything.

We will miss him so much, but his teaching and example will always be with the students and friends he inspired and loved."
Syamala Roberts

Joe Grimwood, a member of the choir also involved in Jesus College Christian Union paid tribute to Dr Hughes’ “amazing support” of the CU, while also stating that “He supported the whole College family through his role, not only as Dean, but also as a Tutorial Advisor – I always felt I could approach him with any type of problem.”

An enormous number of tributes have been made to Dr Hughes on social media sites.

Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and personal friend of Dr Hughes’ remembered him as “an incredibly thoughtful and caring person” who “still managed to be great fun.” Dr Huppert went on to say that, “Many of us watched how well he was doing in the Church and expected him to rise even higher. Now alas we will never know.”

Former students have shared memories of Dr Hughes on Jesus College’s Facebook page. Zoe Holder, who was supervised by him in Metaphysics, wrote that “John gave me confidence in my academic ability at a time when I really needed it, and I will never forget his kindness and thoughtfulness. He was also the only supervisor ever to offer me bottles of ale during our supervisions!”

Dr Hughes taught at the Faculty of Divinity, which released a tribute earlier in the week, remembering him as a “much valued in the Faculty for his scholarship, for the quality of his teaching, and for the care he showed towards the students he taught, as well as for his collegiality to many of us."

Dr Hughes’ contribution to university – as well as college – life, and his support of individuals, will continue to be felt and appreciated.   

The college will be holding an informal service in memory of Dr Hughes tonight at 8:30pm.

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