RIP Mike Grenby 1941-2019 – the parable of the kind professor

By MARK PEARSON

Australian journalism education lost one of its most dynamic and internationally regarded teachers this month – Bond University’s Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby.

The late Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby (left) and the author in March 2019

After employing him as a visiting journalist in 1998, Mike soon became a valued colleague and a treasured personal friend – a bond that continued to strengthen over the ensuing 21 years. He dined with us often as a regular guest at our family table and we had many adventures together in Australia and internationally. We already miss him greatly.

Bond University has published a worthy tribute to Mike, and his former employer, the Vancouver Sun, has run this obituary that focussed more on his earlier career as a reporter and personal finance columnist. Hundreds of former students, colleagues and acquaintances have commented on social media on the positive influences he had upon their lives.

I penned this piece of prose which his son Matthew read to Mike at a gathering of friends and family just a few days before he died on July 3.

Parable of the kind professor

It is said that many years ago a storytelling professor – a master of the written and oral arts – arrived with his wife from a foreign land where he was acclaimed nationally for his communication prowess. They soon forged many friendships and wide respect for their polite and caring inquiries into the lives and problems of those they met in their new community. Some colleagues even thought he was a Buddhist because of his outlook and demeanour, the Tibetan prayer flags he hung from his office door, and the chime of bells in the corridor each morning. But they soon learned the flags were souvenirs and the bells were simply the signal that the morning tea trolley had arrived.

In just a short time he lost his life partner and missed her greatly. After a period of deep mourning he began his search for a new love.  He travelled the world for almost half of every year, but he was never able to find a single love as deep and lasting as the first. Yet he offered his wisdom and his kindness in morsels to all those he encountered on his life’s journey.

Eventually, when this kind professor lay in a hospital bed – facing the inevitable end of all mortal beings – he realised that he had actually found the new love he had been seeking over all those miles and years. It lay not in a single individual (who could never be replaced) but it flowed from the thousands of kind and generous words and actions he had bestowed upon all he had met on his journey … students, colleagues, high officials, servants, fellow travellers and complete strangers. Their encounters with this kind professor – some fleeting, and many of a long duration – were life-changing. The sum of all these instances of the love and kindness he had given – and had in turn received – amounted to a greater love than any individual human could provide, and he realised that this had been the key to his life-long vitality, positive outlook and good fortune.

Some cultures believe the paths to enlightenment lie in acts of loving kindness and in the offering of wise counsel to others. This generous storytelling professor reached enlightenment in his final weeks and days as he was showered in the golden rays of all the love and kindness he had offered others throughout his almost four score years. The world was improved forever by the ripples of love he had bestowed upon it.

Thus, fellow travellers, pay heed to the lessons of this kind storytelling professor. Lend an ear to those in sorrow or distress, offer words of comfort and compassion, practice selfless generosity, and be a friend to all as you pass them in the corridor, on the beach or at the market. Our small gestures and courtesies ease suffering and cast light and warmth into the lives of those around us, and the life of this kind professor bears testimony to that universal truth.      

Rest in peace my good friend.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Filed under journalism, journalism education, mindful journalism

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