26 August 2015

An Eulogy for Prof Gary Gorman

By Dan Dorner

Eulogy presented at Gary's funeral - 25 August 2015

Gary was a very good friend of mine - but as I found out preparing this eulogy that there were some very interesting things about him that I only had minimal knowledge about.

I first met Gary early in 1999 when he joined the School of Communications and Information Management as it was known then - coming to Victoria University from Charles Sturt University in Australia.  Gary was helpful from the start of his time at Vic assisting me in getting some journal articles published just as I set off on a Research and Study Leave to Canada.  In fact, during his time at Vic Gary helped many of us in the School to find places to get our work published.

When Gary came to Vic, he had already done quite a bit of work in Vietnam, and while I was in Canada in 1999, he had asked me if I was interested in participating in a project in Vietnam called "Information Networks for the Future" that he and Rowena Cullen had put together and which was being funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  It was on the trips to Vietnam starting in late 2000 that I began to learn about Gary's younger years as he told me anecdotes when we were relaxing at dinner with a glass or two of beer. 

After that initial project finished, Gary and I and Philip Calvert worked on another project in Vietnam to teach young university graduates who were hired as staff for a new  library being constructed for the University in Hue in central Vietnam.  On another Vietnamese project, Gary and I developed the curriculum for a new master's degree in library and information studies for CanTho University in the South of Vietnam, working with two colleagues from the United States.  So, as you will no doubt have figured out - Gary was highly involved in library development work in Vietnam - but it wasn't just in Vietnam.  I will mention other countries in a moment.

Many of you may be surprised to learn that Gary was born in California, where his mother, Gertrude, went to live near her brother during World War II.  Gary's father, Eugene Gorman, was in the British Army then, and after the war, the Gorman family moved to Saudi Arabia where Gary's father worked as an engineer in the petroleum industry.  Gary told me about how the family travelled on cruise ships on their summer holidays, and how his family lived in Beirut for a while and they visited historic places in the Middle East. I visited some very interesting places in Lebanon and Syria with Gary in early 2010 and I feel very lucky to have done so.  That trip was for a meeting of the Asia and Oceania Regional Standing Committee of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions - better known as IFLA. 

It was through Gary that I got involved in IFLA.  Gary was the Chair of that Regional Standing Committee for four years - and it was through his IFLA connections that he was able to get funding for information literacy workshops in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  We also put together an IFLA funded month long information literacy programme in Wellington for librarians from the Asia and Oceania region for each year from 2003 to 2009.

At the IFLA annual conference which was held last week in Cape Town South Africa, I told people who knew Gary the sad news of his passing - and as the word spread, many conference attendees came to me and asked me to pass on their condolences to Gary's wife, Anna and his daughter, Caroline - and I also received many emails with similar sentiments from friends and former students of Gary - from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Australia, Thailand, Egypt, South Africa, the United Kingdom … and other places.

Gary suffered from a number of serious health issues over the years.  So it is remarkable that Gary was able to continue his work and travels in Asia for so long. In 2011 and 2012 Gary held his last academic position - in Malaysia where he was a visiting professor at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.  As recently as last year Gary did some consultancy work in Fiji but he told me afterwards that travelling had become very difficult due to his health issues.

Going back to his earlier life - Gary was very interested in theology.  I found a religious website called Praybook - that had an entry for Gary listing the following qualifications that he had:

Bachelor cum laude, Boston University, 1967; Master of Divinity, Gettysburg Theological Seminary, 1970; STB (Bachelor's in Sacred Theology) with honours, University Toronto, 1971; Diploma, London University, 1975; Master of Arts, London University, 1978; Doctor of Theology, Australian College Theology.  It also said that Gary was "American minister, educator, author, " which might explain why when I was looking through his files to find some information for him a couple of weeks ago while he was in the hospital,  I found a letter addressed to "the Reverend Gary Gorman" in 1972.

Several years ago, Gary talked to me of his time in the 1960s and 1970s as a young man in the United States and Canada.  He said that in the mid 1970s he began to worry about wasting his whole life as a student.  It's interesting that the Gettysburg Theological Seminary is a Lutheran Seminary - and when he went to the University of Toronto he studied under the Jesuit Catholic priests for a Bachelor's in Sacred Theology.  Yet his PhD research related to Anglican ministers in rural Australia. Very eclectic indeed!  In 1975, he was an information retrieval officer for Christian Aid in London. He did a Master's degree in Arts (focussing on Library Science) in London and began working as a librarian in 1978 at the Institute for Development Studies in Sussex - an organisation focussed on international development work which likely got him started in that direction.  And when he was at Charles Sturt University as a Lecturer, he did some work in Hong Kong and then in Vietnam.  So he had a fair amount of international work under his belt when finally arrived at Vic.  

Gary also talked to me about his daughter, Caroline, whom he was very proud of.  He told me how when she was around 10 years old he brought her to Hong Kong with him on his trips there to expose her to a different culture - and of course, he blubbered on at times as a very proud Dad about how well she did at school and at university.  When I first met Gary, Caroline was an undergraduate student in psychology - then she did a Master's degree in Forensic Psychology at the University of Melbourne. I met her and her mother when Caroline was graduating with her undergraduate degree - Gary and I were in Melbourne at the same time but for different reasons - and Caroline and her mother, Lynne, came to the hotel to pick Gary up to go to the graduation ceremony.  I also met Caroline once when she came to Wellington to visit Gary.  Caroline was unable to travel here from Melbourne to attend her dad's funeral because she is due to have her second child in the next week or so.

About two years ago, when Gary came back to Upper Hutt from the University of Malaya, he introduced me to someone who had become very special in his life - his wife Anna. They got married in Malaysia and when they moved to their house in Upper Hutt, Gary got her interested in gardening - growing their own vegetables as well as beautiful flowers - roses were one of Gary's passions.  Gary had been a keen gardener in Australia - and he was very happy when  Anna took up gardening with him.  Gary also greatly enjoyed Anna's wonderful Vietnamese cooking  - sometimes with vegetables fresh out of their garden.  I must admit - Gary was also a keen cook - but the times when I visited them for a meal I always hoped Anna was going to be the chef of the day! 

When Gary was rushed to the hospital almost three weeks ago, Anna was at his side nearly 24 hours a day.  She needed to be coaxed to go home to have a rest and refresh herself.  Gary told me one day when Anna was out of the room that she had been a great wife and companion during their time together - and that he was truly lucky to have met her and for her to be such an important part of his life.

In closing, I just wish to say that Gary was one of the most complex individuals I have ever known.  Mostly he was incredibly intelligent - but there were other times when I wondered where he left his brain - he could be extremely frustrating to deal with. But as I said he was mostly incredibly intelligent - and as the acting Head of School in SIM there were times when he had to be decisive and make some critical decisions - and when he made those decisions we all seemed to be the better for them - they may have felt painful in the short term but in the long term they always proved to be great decisions.   That was the Gary we all knew.

Gary loved to quote old Latin expressions that he had learned along the way - so I will say two things in Latin to end my eulogy:

Deficit omne quod nasciture - Everything that is born passes away.

Aeternum vale Gary - Farewell forever Gary!

Dan Dorner

Asia and Oceania, Asia and Oceania, Eulogy, Gary Gorman

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