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A week ago, John McGuire, my phD supervisor, passed away. Since the funeral, during which I found myself among old friends and many special memories, I have thought a lot about John as a person and the difference he made to how I view the world.
I first met John in 1993, when I enrolled as a third year student in Historiography 323. At that time I was impressed by the awesomeness of his intellectual abilities, his capacities as an educator, and his dedication to excellence in the pursuit of knowledge. His extraordinary qualities as a teacher and researcher inspired me to embark on postgraduate study in historiography, and I consider it a real privilege to have been taught and supervised by him.
As a supervisor, he was an important mentor, providing inspiration, guidance, advice, encouragement and constructive criticism. As a colleague with whom I shared the teaching of some history courses, John set a fine example and taught me so much about effective teaching and learning. As a friend, he was someone I greatly admired for his generous spirit and the depth of his moral and personal integrity.
John inspired a whole group of us to be excited about pursuing intellectual questions and to be passionate about ideas. We endlessly debated the nature of history, time, existence, action and thought. We argued about the philosophies of Plato, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hegel, Marx and Foucault, to name a few. He fostered in us a love of learning and taught us how to think critically, to question, to create arguments, to find our own voice.
I learned a lot from John about the concept of time and its relationship to history. I came to know that the purpose of history – of attempting to understand the past – was to help us understand the present. I came to see that the past only exists in the present, and thus is always changing, just as the future too, is born out of the present moment. I came to understand time as a constructed concept that is manifest through an historical process which is organic and cyclical/spiral in nature, and thus inherently creative, where the new arises from the old.
Since that time of my life, it feels as though I have diverged far from the journey I was on then – now raising a family and embarking on a different career path. Yet, in the past few days I have come to realise that the things I learned back then have stayed with me and are a part of who I am and how I view the world. They led me to where I am now, and they continue to shape my present in new ways.
John was someone who made a difference to my life. Above all, he taught me to believe in myself.
Vale John, and thank you.