A FOUNDING fellow and dean of degrees of St Catherine’s College has died aged 91.

John Simopoulos was a philosophy don and son of Charalambos Simopoulos, the Greek ambassador to London during the Second World War.

From 1953 he was one of four permanent academic staff at the St Catherine’s Society and in 1960 became a founding fellow when it was transformed into an Oxford University college under Alan Bullock.

He was Dean of Degrees, a ceremonial position which put him in charge of taking students through matriculation and degree ceremonies, until his death.

It was a role he was passionate about and became involved in every aspect of it, including what the chefs would cook.

As part of his own tradition he would personally translate the menu into French each year and was also known for emphasising to his students during rehearsals the moment in matriculation where an oath is sworn.

His colleague and friend Professor Roger Ainsworth said: “He would tell pupils, ‘if you walk around Oxford, half the population will be shuffling around the pavements looking depressed. This is because they did not say ‘do fidem’ (I swear) loud enough’.”

Prof Ainsworth added: “John was one of the foremost characters at the college and was hugely loved by all who knew him.

“Having occupied a central role for several decades, his death leaves a massive hole in the college.”

Mr Simopoulos was born on June 12, 1923. His father was the former ambassador to the Court of St James in London.

An alumnus of Magdalen College, Oxford, he taught at Christ Church Cathedral Choir School.

He also worked as a special commissioner for Oxfam in the early 1950s, reporting on the plight of Hungarian refugees in various refugee camps in Italy.

Following his retirement in 1988 he became an emeritus fellow.

However, he continued to play a key role at the college as its dean of degrees.

In that capacity he took scores of students through the process of matriculation in the Sheldonian Theatre each Michaelmas term, as well as taking responsibility for ten degree ceremonies per year.

In retirement he also indulged his lifelong fascination with telephones and became a telephone consultant in London.

John Simopoulos died on Wednesday, March 4.

Details of his funeral were yet to be confirmed a spokeswoman for St Catherine’s College said.