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Linguistic legacy boosted by half million donation

Linguistic legacy boosted by half million dollar donation

A half million dollar donation from New Zealand language expert Emeritus Professor Ian Gordon, 95, will ensure the seeds sown in his 40 year academic career at Victoria University will continue to bear fruit.

Professor Gordon, now resident in Auckland, has donated $500,000 to Victoria for scholarships, fellowships and other awards for outstanding research in the School of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies. He hopes the donation will ensure that the study of applied languages, linguistics and English language continues.

The donation can be tracked back to an investment made when Professor Gordon was working at Victoria in the 1960s. Finding a £100 surplus of income over expenditure at the end of the year, he consulted a professor of Economics who advised him to invest in Government bonds. Choosing to ignore this advice he purchased shares and then sagely traded at the right moments.

As Chair of English from 1936-1974, Professor Gordon made a distinguished contribution to the teaching of the English language and literature at what was then Victoria University College, later to become Victoria University. He was instrumental in establishing what is now the School of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies and helped produce many notable graduates including Dr Harry Orsman, Dr Robert Burchfield, who became editor in chief of the great Oxford English Dictionary, and Drs Grahame Johnston and Bill Ramson, who made their mark editing dictionaries of Australian English. In 1961 the first English Language Institute in New Zealand was created at his initiative and he was instrumental, with Professor Frank Brosnahan, in introducing the teaching of linguistics at Victoria from the 1960s.

Professor Gordon is well known to many New Zealanders through broadcasting and a regular column in the Listener. He was also Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand from 1947-1952 and Chair of the New Zealand Literary Fund from 1950-74 in addition to holding many administrative and academic posts. He was awarded a CBE in 1971 and has received several honorary doctorates.

In 1997, the New Zealand Dictionary Centre was established at Victoria, in partnership with Oxford University Press, to carry on the long-standing tradition of keeping track of New Zealand words. The Centre is led by Professor Graeme Kennedy who was a student of Professor Gordon's.

"We are extremely grateful for this generous gift from Professor Gordon. He has made an indelible mark on the study of language in New Zealand and this donation is a very practical way to ensure that study continues," says Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University.

Professor Gordon's donation was made by way of a gift through the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation. He also established a fund on behalf of his late wife May, a past Victoria staff member, for the top woman student in Victoria's first year English Literature course. In 2003 he also made a donation of $5,000 as the basis for an annual prize to be awarded to a student for excellent work in linguistics.


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