These are the facts. But I came across an anecdote recently which gave me pause. Having already mentioned Merton College, you might wonder whether this anecdote has anything to do with Tolkien (who, as most of you probably know, taught at Merton College from 1945–59). It certainly does.
In Stanley Vestal: Champion of the Old West, Ray Tassin describes a return visit Vestal and his friend Frank Reid made to England from the end of June through August, 1953. This was some forty years after Vestal’s time at Oxford, and less than a decade after Tolkien took up his post as Merton Professor of English Language and Literature. Tassin writes:
Vestal’s first goal was his old college, Merton. He was eager to see it again, especially his old rooms and certain parts which had not been open to undergraduates when he had been a student there. But the porter was out and his boy dared not leave the lodge. While Vestal and Frank [Reid] talked to him one of the dons came in and volunteered to show them around. He was Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, well-known fantasy books. Tolkien took them everywhere, including the room where the queen lived when King Charles lived at Oxford. The tour concluded with Danish lager in the don’s rooms. This story — which was published the same year Tolkien died — well, it sounds like a bit of a stretcher, don’t you think? Consulting Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond’s exhaustive Chronology (and online addenda), there is nothing to corroborate this anecdote. Even if Tolkien were inclined to this sort of friendliness toward an American visitor, he was extremely busy with the galley proofs of The Lord of the Rings during the two months in question, conducting examinations, working with the BBC to set up a radio broadcast of his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and plenty more besides. He was so busy that he was postponing meetings!
So while I suppose it’s possible he showed a Merton alumnus around the College, it’s seems a bit more likely that he didn’t; or if he did, that the rest of the story is exaggerated, or made up entirely. Tassin’s book cites no sources other than Vestal’s letters of the period, but I don’t think these letters have been published. The University of Oklahoma has digitized and put online a pretty extensive portion of the Campbell Collection, but this doesn’t include much of his correspondence. It’s possible his letters are held privately in the Collection, and I know a reference librarian there, so I will have to make an inquiry. It would be interesting to learn whether Vestal himself records Tolkien’s name in his letters (though even if he does, it doesn’t necessarily prove the anecdote, in whole or in part).
It’s an interesting claim, though, isn’t it? Not something I ever expected to stumble on. Who knew there was a direct connection (claimed, at least) between Tolkien and the same U.S. state where I was born!
 Tassin, Ray. Stanley Vestal: Champion of the Old West. Norman, OK: A. H. Clark Co. [Imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press], 1973, pp. 260–1.