School Governor and Benefactor

It is with great sadness that we let you all know that Graham Pye died peacefully on Friday 12 June 2009 with his wife, Yvonne, at his bedside. A Governor of the School, he was also a member of the Development Committee and sponsored events such as the Madrigals. A lifelong supporter of the School, largely through the Pye Trust, he was one of the School’s greatest benefactors of modern times.

The funeral service was held at Harris Manchester College, Mansfield Road, Oxford on Tuesday 30 June and was followed by a private cremation.

A full Cathedral paid tribute to Graham’s life in a moving service of remembrance. Among those giving tributes were Hugo Brunner, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, and Lord Butler, whilst Graham’s wife, Yvonne, read an anonymous poem that caught the moment perfectly. The service was conducted by the Dean of Christ Church with the singing led by a choir formed from the Oxford Sixth, and members of Magdalen College School Choir, including choristers, teachers and OWs, who opened the service withThe Lilies of the Field and also performedGive Us This Day by Ward Swingle.

The obituary below comes fromThe Times, Wednesday, 9 September 2009.

Graham Pye: housebuilder and Deputy

Lieutenant of Oxfordshire

On 15 March 2000 Graham Pye made the front page of The Times with his battle in the High Court to reclaim 57 acres of land, potentially worth some £20 million. Although the land, in Berkshire, was registered with the Land Registry as belonging to the Pye Group of Companies, it had become the subject of an ‘adverse possession’ claim by those whom Pye had allowed to farm it. The case made legal history: Pye lost in the High Court, where the judge made reference to a most unfair decision that he had had to make. Pye went on to win the case in the Court of Appeal, only to lose again in the House of Lords. Pye won again in the European Court of Human Rights, but finally lost to an appeal by the British Government. Such a case would have destroyed many people, but not Pye, who met with disappointment as he met with success, in his usual cheerful and philosophical manner.

Graham Christopher Pye was born in 1939 and educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and Birmingham University. Being intelligent, hard-working and conscientious, he could have followed successful careers in banking, politics or the law, but chose instead to join the family building company founded by his father shortly after the First World War. The year Graham was born the company put out an advertisement for ‘the Original Sunshine Houses’ for first-time buyers. These homes had ‘main drainage, electric light, and a constant supply of hot water’ as well as ‘a tiled bathroom, a lavatory basin and a draining board’. Graham, who later became the managing director of the Pye Group of Companies, continued the family tradition of not being motivated solely by profit but by a desire to build good homes for people at a fair price.

Although a highly successful business, the family firm was not sufficient to contain all of Graham’s energies and talents. Twice he was called upon to serve as president of the House Builders Federation, in 1985 and 1990, a rare distinction which reflected the respect in which he was held by his peers. During his long association with the Federation he particularly influenced attitudes relating to planning and the provision of affordable housing. He chaired the Federation’s Land and Planning Committee and the Affordable Housing Working Group. In the mid-1980s, he undertook pioneering work on the issues of the affordability of housing and ways in which the problem could be tackled. In subsequent years he helped to produce guidance notes on how affordable housing could best be delivered. This work proved to be of lasting importance.

Graham also championed good-quality design for residential development and played a leading role in establishing the highly respected national Housing Design Awards. He felt that education in the house building industry was important, and he worked hard to set up a module on Residential Development at the University of Reading, he lectured on this course for many years. He was active in housing and development issues in the wider European arena. From 2005 to 2007 he served as the president of the European Union of Developers and House Builders, having previously chaired the Design and Development Committee.

Among his many achievements, he contributed to the establishment of a European standard for building and construction materials, which helped to create an efficient and reliable market for these goods. Pye was also Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire. Among his many community-supporting activities was his love for, and encouragement of, music to the great benefit of the county. Several years ago, Music at Oxford ran into financial and other problems, and was rescued chiefly through Pye’s efforts. He sorted out the charity, reorganised the finances, and ensured a high standard of musical concerts, which have attracted outstanding musicians and been supported by large audiences. Through his leadership and generosity the musical life of Oxford has been greatly enriched, a fact acknowledged by the University of Oxford, which awarded Graham an Honorary degree for his services to music.

His support for music was only a small part of his vast support of charities, schools, colleges, and universities. He was a member of Harris Manchester College’s Board of Regents and chaired the college’s buildings and grounds committee. He understood the need for long-term commitment, and took great pleasure in seeing good things blossom and develop. It was a measure of his support for education that Harris Manchester College, Oxford, University College Oxford and Oxford Brookes University all elected him to honorary fellowships.

He died after a short illness and is survived by his wife, Yvonne, his constant companion for 44 years.

Graham Christopher Pye, housebuilder, Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, was born on November 21, 1939. He died on June 12, 2009, aged 69.