Like many universities, Oxford Brookes benefits greatly from the tremendous generosity of individuals who support the institution. A perfect example of this is Dr John Comerford who has been associated with real estate programmes at Oxford Brookes for almost 25 years.

Now, at the age of 79, John has decided that it is time to step down from his support for the university and it felt only right to pay tribute to him.

He began his association in the late 1980s and in differing guises he has remained committed to our work through to the present day.

It is difficult to sum up John’s contribution. He has led on the link between academia and professional practice; he has been mentor to younger members of staff in their formative years; he has been instigator in securing funds for the university; he has been promoter of the work of our Department of Real Estate and Construction; he established both the Comerford Fellowship and the Comerford Undergraduate Prize.

Trying to compress those is not easy, but as a benevolent friend to the university he has helped to instill in us all the simple fact that we have a fundamental responsibility to act ethically in all that we do both professionally and personally.

In more recent years, John’s mission has been to promote sustainable behaviour, specifically in the area of climate change.

This interest can be traced back to his role as chair of the original conference for the Oxford Centre for Sustainable Development (now Institute) in November 1999.

This was a significant development for us all.

Many colleagues working at Oxford Brookes in the Built Environment field at the time had already spent many years researching aspects of sustainability and environmental impact. Now with an institute, it was possible to bring that cutting edge research together and create a multi-disciplinary vehicle to take the agenda forward.

As chair of the originating event, John saw not only the potential of this but he also recognised the responsibility that he, as a professional surveyor, had in disseminating both message and the significance of ignoring the consequences of climate change.

From then on, he refined his views into a simple message, or perhaps a plea for the sake of his grandchildren, that the profession has a responsibility not only to get the building technology right but also to ensure that the way in which that technology is used and managed is perhaps more important.

He has therefore sought to ensure that wherever possible his support is given to encouraging students both at undergraduate and postgraduate level that professional ethics and behaviour should be sustainable both financially and environmentally.

It is this continued commitment to making a difference to students which is so invaluable to Oxford Brookes, those who study with us and the wider community.

John is stepping down at a time when property markets are beginning to emerge from a severe financial crisis which has taken attention away from climate change concerns.

His parting hope is that those concerns can be rekindled in the continuing work being done at Oxford Brookes.

His parting gift to all who worked with him over the years is the memory of an individual who showed genuine concern for the plight of the planet and his own personal responsibility – simply put, we as individuals can make a difference. So, let’s make a difference.

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