Mayo College, Batch of 1968
As one whose academic career in engineering and applied mathematics has depended on rigour, there is no question in my mind that Mayo College provided me with the best possible foundation for this discipline of rigour. And no one at Mayo exemplified rigour more than Jack Gibson – rigour could have been another one of his many middle names! He drilled it into us from an early age; despite being very busy with all his duties as the principal, he insisted on teaching an introductory geometry class to some of the youngest kids. As a mere nine-year old I learned Euclidean geometry proofs – Gibby style. In Gibby’s eyes there was obviously only one item that could possibly be stated at each point in the proof. As the proof was developed, he would go around the class and each kid had to add the next word or phrase. We all trembled in our seats as our turn came up, hoping that our answer of “therefore”, “angle B”, or “is equal to” would be the right one! If not, then to the front of the classroom it was, where you bent over and took your punishment. But by the end of that year I had learned the importance of precision in mathematical reasoning, and it would serve me for the rest of my education and my career.
Gibby was also a man of principle and much of my administrative work later in life benefited from what I learned by observing how he dealt with many different situations involving disciplinary action.
Amazingly, Gibby complemented his love of rigour, precision, and principle, with an incredible knowledge and appreciation of just about everything – from mathematics to music, from schoolyard sports to mountain-climbing – exemplifying the true Renaissance man and setting an ideal for all the boys at Mayo. An unlikely place where he displayed his wide knowledge was when proud boys went to his office to show him their “Good Chits” (awarded by a teacher for any outstanding performance, such as in a test or an essay). Regardless of what subject you got your Good Chit in, he managed to ask a question that humbled you and showed that you had more to learn! I still remember the time when I got a Good Chit for Sanskrit. As I stood in line outside his office, my supposed prowess in the ancient language confirmed by the chit in my hand, I felt secure in the thought that Gibby couldn’t possibly know enough Sanskrit to baffle me. And then he looked at the subject “Sanskrit” on my chit and without missing a beat asked me to translate “Om Mani Padme Hum.” To this day I wonder if the glint in his eye was because he had stumped me, or because he really did know the multiple levels of Tantric meanings in the chant that said “The Jewel is in the Lotus”!