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Victoria marks the passing of a great academic

27 September 2004

Victoria marks the passing of a distinguished academic

Distinguished Victoria academic Emeritus Professor Ian (I.A.) Gordon received an honorary doctorate from the University shortly before he died during the weekend.

Professor Gordon, 96, died in Auckland early on Sunday morning, having received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Victoria the day before. The University Council decided in August to confer the degree upon Professor Gordon.

Professor Gordon, who had an MA and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, left a lecturing position at the Scottish university to take up an appointment as Chair of English at Victoria in 1936, a position he held till 1974.

He served with the New Zealand Army during World War II and became involved in army education, joining the third division in New Caledonia. Later he served as part of the occupation army in Japan.

Resuming his position at Victoria on returning to New Zealand, he served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand from 1947 to 1952, Chair of the New Zealand Literary Fund from 1950 to 1974 and as a member of the University Grants Committee from 1961-71. He was awarded a CBE in 1971 and had received honorary doctorates from the University of New Zealand, University of Bristol and Stirling University.

Well known as I.A. Gordon, he had his own radio show on National Radio and wrote a popular column on language in the New Zealand Listener. He also wrote 20 books, including A Word in Your Ear and Take My Word for It, and edited the Collins Concise English Dictionary. Able to speak five languages, he was also an expert on the writings of Katherine Mansfield and Scottish novelist John Galt.

Earlier this year, Professor Gordon donated $500,000 to establish a fund for scholarships, fellowships and other awards for outstanding research in the School of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies to ensure the study of theoretical and applied linguistics and the English language continued.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said Professor Gordon made an indelible mark on the study of language in New Zealand and his passing was a great loss to the disciplines he promoted and his many students, for whom he was a mentor.

"Professor Gordon made a distinguished contribution to the teaching of English language and literature in New Zealand. While always interested and open to new developments in the study of English, he also preserved traditional approaches to the study of language and literature and was instrumental in establishing what is now the School of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies at Victoria.

"Professor Gordon was a knowledgeable and stimulating teacher and many notable graduates cut their teeth under his tutelage and went on to professorial positions at Oxford and Cambridge universities. Bob Burchfield, who went on to be editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and Harry Orsman, who compiled The Dictionary of New Zealand English, were just a couple of his many distinguished students."


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