Obituaries


(June 5, 1997, Gazette)

Sir Robert Aitken

Sir Robert Aitken, an honorary graduate of Memorial (LL.D., 1961) who was renowned for his commitment to education, died April 10 at age 95.

Robert Aitken began his career as a physician. Born in New Zealand on April 16, 1901, he studied medicine at the University of Otago, then attended London Hospital, England, under a Rhodes scholarship. After working as a reader in the British Postgraduate Medical School in London from 1935-38, he was appointed regius professor of medicine at the University of Aberdeen. There he was involved in the development of hospital provision in Scotland, and was caught up in the excitement of post-war hospital reconstruction and the new National Health Service.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dr. Aitken served as vice-chancellor of the University of Otago, then was recruited to be vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham. In a tribute to Sir Aitken published in the April 17, 1997, issue of The Guardian, it was observed that he considered one of his greatest achievements at the University of Birmingham the implementation of a program of inter-faculty studies, "to open the windows of every student's mind to something worth studying outside the set courses for his degree."

From 1958-61, Dr. Aitken chaired the committee of vice-chancellors and principals of the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth. He was knighted in 1960, and retired in 1968 to devote more time to family, music, theatre and gardening. Dr. Aitken was predeceased by his wife, Margaret, in 1991. He is survived by a son and two daughters.

**********

Dr. Elliott T. Merrick III

Dr. Elliott T. Merrick III, an honorary graduate of Memorial University, died April 22 at the age of 91.

Dr. Merrick was born in New Jersey and educated at Yale University. During his lifetime he revealed many talents, including writing and editing, sailing, farming and teaching, but it was the merit of his writing about Labrador for which he was given an honorary doctor of letters degree from Memorial in 1985. Dr. Merrick joined the Grenfell Mission in 1929 as a teacher in a northerly Labrador town -- now the site of Goose Bay airport -- where he met his future wife, Kate Austen, a nurse from Australia. His first book, True North (1933) describes in diary form their lives in Labrador. Labrador was the subject of other books as well, including Frost and Fire, and Northern Nurse, which spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Dr. Merrick's literary career also included stories published in magazines such as Reader's Digest, The New Yorker, and Saturday Evening Post. Memorial's Centre for Newfoundland Studies, in the Queen Elizabeth II Library, is the repository for Dr. Merrick's literary papers.

Dr. Merrick had returned to the United States and was teaching English at the University of Vermont when the Second World War started. After serving as a writer for the Office of War Information, he became associate professor of English at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. A year later he began his 22-year career as science editor for the U.S. Forest Service. After he retired, Dr. Merrick devoted much of his time to sailing his 20-foot sloop.

Dr. Merrick was predeceased by his first wife, Kate, and his son, Kim. He is survived by his second wife, Patricia Herring Merrick; son, Austen, and daughter, Susan, and their families, and by a circle of other relatives and friends.

**********

Dr. Gregory J. Power

Honorary graduate Dr. Gregory J. Power, known to many Newfoundlanders for his prowess as an athlete, politician, businessman and poet, died May 15 at age 88, following a brief illness.

Dr. Power was born in Dunville, Placentia Bay, and was educated there and in St. John's -- including at Memorial University College. An outstanding athlete, he was a member of the Newfoundland team for the 1930 British Empire Games; tuberculosis forced his retirement from sports, but not from life -- during the 1940s he fought as hard for Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada as he had against his illness. In the 1950s he was a close associate of Premier J. R. Smallwood, and held the cabinet posts of minister of finance, and minister of highways.

By the end of the 1950s Dr. Power had become critical of Dr. Smallwood's government, and was writing about his concerns in his Listening Post column in The Evening Telegram. Years later, however, Dr. Smallwood and Dr. Power buried the hatchet and resumed their close friendship. For the rest of his life Dr. Power remained proud of his affiliation with one of the fathers of Confederation, telling Memorial graduates in 1995: "I suspect that many of you students are unaware of the fact that Joe and I made you Canadian citizens..."

Dr. Power was the author of Gems of Newfoundland Poetry (1967), and co-wrote The Power of the Pen with Harold Horwood (1989). An award-winning poet, he helped inspire countless other writers with his annual poetry prize at Memorial. Dr. Power received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Memorial University in 1995. He is survived by his wife, Mary (Crosbie) Power; children Rosemary Sullivan, Gertrude LeClair, Ethel Dobbin, Roberta Power, Gregory Power Jr., Gerry Power, Donald Power and their families, and by countless other relatives, friends and admirers.