Mayo College, Batch of 1961
How does one even begin to describe Jack Gibson? He was a man of many “great” and rare qualities. He was an educationist – honoured by both the Indian and British Governments for his services to education; he was a man with a sense of adventure – demonstrated by his mountaineering exploits; he believed in fairness; always ready to help the underprivileged and the underdog; he had a great sense of value – a quality that he passed on to the students while at Mayo; and the most humble quality of all – great joy and pleasure from the simple things of life!!
My association with Jack began at the tender age of ten and I am honoured and proud to say that it lasted till his death. He was at first my Principal and teacher, then became my mentor, guide and father figure and a friend.
Jack had the rare quality of making everyone feel that they were special to him. He was especially kind to people in need. Not many people may know that he provided financial support for needy ex Mayo students through University. Most students have their own stories to tell about his concern for them and his way of helping them. In my case he made me who I am today. He strongly believed that he should fulfill the goal of educating one individual beyond school. And I was fortunate to be the chosen one. He saw potential in me but knew my financial resources were limited. He got me a scholarship to Haileybury, a leading boarding school in England and managed to get me a grant at Cambridge University. He took on the responsibility to look after all my expenses while studying in England!!
As an educationist he knew how to get the best out of his students and many can vouch for that. In my case he changed my life. Upon joining Mayo I was so homesick that I convinced my father to take me out of school. My brother-in-law was sent to fetch me. Jack tried his best to convince me to stay on till the end of the term and not return after the holidays if I did not feel like it. But I insisted on leaving. When we went to say bye to him he challenged my stubborn resolve. He told me that I was a coward and a sissy and did not even have the courage to stay on for only six more weeks. At that young age my pride was deeply hurt and I took up his challenge. That was the best decision of my life.
Jack believed education should not be limited to the class room but should be an all round experience. It should build character and instill a sense of value. As a student in England one Christmas season, I worked as a Postman to earn enough money to go skiing. I thought he would appreciative my initiative. However he thought differently. He said that if I was doing it for the experience he approved but not for the sake of monetary reasons alone. He believed that travel is a great education experience and I should have the opportunity to do so. He felt so strongly about it that he gave me a generous annual allowance to travel. As a result I traveled widely in Europe, and visited the US and Canada. This experience of meeting a variety of people and cultures has broadened my mind and my outlook on life.
Jack introduced me to a number of families in England with whom I could spend my school/university holidays. He made sure that these families belonged to a cross section of society to instill in me a greater sense of value and appreciation of people for who they are. Even today I am not swayed by the wealth of a person but by the character of the person.
Jack had strong sense of fairness and applied that standard to all who crossed his path. Mayo boys probably remember instances where when he was at fault he was prepared to be subjected to the same punishment that would have been meted out to them in a similar situation. On one occasion he did five somersaults in front of the entire class!!
I stayed on an extra year in Mayo as I was underage to get admission to a college. This worked in my favour as I became Headboy and Captain of quite a few games. However, Jack explained to me that my extended stay should not hinder other deserving boys from their opportunities. Hence with Jack’s characteristic sense of fairness he did not make me Captain of Football even though that was my best game and another boy was made Headboy in my last term.
Jack was a simple person at heart and got great pleasure from the little things of life. The taming of the wild bulbul to eat out of his hand or a game of competitive coits in his courtyard, or the evening walk in the fields around his house inspecting the progress of the crops gave him immense pleasure.
I am extremely fortunate and blessed to have had such close interaction with him, his family and his friends over the years. I am sure that all who knew him well feel the same way. Any one who crossed his path is a better person.