Vale George Madaus.
George Madaus died on December 18 2016 aged 82. His career and works are better described than I could manage in an article to which I linked on Facebook.
George, though internationally famous as a researcher and publisher in the area of testing and evaluation was a wonderfully approachable and helpful mentor.
Would that I had met him at a time in my life when I was less troubled, leaving the Jesuits after 20 years therein and suffering major culture shock. I was far from the well balanced grad student
When I arrived in Boston in August 1972, just as Nixon was declaring he knew nothing about Watergate, I knew no one and was at a loss to make sense of my chosen university and its structures. Somehow George got a message to me that I should contact him. He invited me to his home in Needham. He had a remarkable knowledge of Irish and Australian folk music, but wanted to know more.
The family dog "Broccoli" was an endless source of merriment for George as Broccoli seemed to defy all known learning theory. George enjoyed collecting and passing on jokes. He always had one at the ready.
He introduced me to the Centre for Field Research and Services to Schools. He was responsible for my getting a job there teaching a course in Foundations of Education for 400 students more than I could have imagined.
Though only a year older than me he seemed older as an elder at Boston College and was a major figure on the campus. He knew almost everyone and was respected by them.
During a summer vacation I had a job driving a school buss for a children's summer camp. George lent me his car for the summer enabling me to get to and from work and other places.
George engaged a luthier to help him make a hurdy gurdy and invited me to tag along as I worked building a dulcimer in his basement.
When I told him I was leaving the Jesuits he urged me to enroll immediately in the doctoral programme. He knew I had to eat, get clothed and get a roof over my head and what better meal ticket than a doctorate. He used say, "A few dollars and a PhD will get you a cup of coffee." As part of the entry into the doctoral programme I had to sit an exam in the Millers Analogy test. I was not happy with my mark. When I told George he told me he too had received that mark.
Knowing my gra for Irish music and lifestyle he helped me get a fellowship in Dublin in the Education Research Centre at St Pat's Drumcondra. This was several good things rolled into one. A job in Ireland which after America was bliss. It was an opportunity to work on a landmark international education research study into standardized testing where, as tests were introduced into the Irish system it was possible to pre-test, test and then test the effects on the nation. And I could travel around the country chasing the music and drinking Guiness. George put me up at his own apartment in Howth until I got some accommodation; my own first living space.
By this time George was working in Ireland full time.
George and Tom Kellegan the director of the Research Centre were busy setting up the study we were working on. It was complex with six funding bodies in Ireland and the USA. Schools had to be chosen across the country. Some existed in name only some had moved address. It was like looking for several needles in several haystacks using medieval maps. Staff had to be hired for field work. As well a large repository had to be found for the monumental stacks of tests to be stored after completion, return and correction. This turned out to be All Hallows College, a disused diocesan seminary where several priests who went to the Bathurst Diocese were trained. I had worked with them in Australia. It was strange seeing pictures of these chaps as young men along the cloister walls as we lugged bundles of tests in and out of the ghostly building.
I was learning to be an employee. I was a slow learner and a bolshie one as well.
George and I clashed as did others in these days getting the research structured and running. Despite my brashness and probably a feeling that the hand he had offered to feed me was being bitten George hung in there and we still shared jokes and Irish music. He took up the concertina.
He loved working songs like "School days over come on then John" Luke Kelly's version. Or "Fiddler's Green" a fisherman's end of days song. These were worlds away from his professorial seat, but he loved their humanness.
Dear George is probably the most internationally renowned person I have known, though not greatly known outside his field or America or Ireland.
Just one final George story. Danny Burke (not his real name) was born in Bandon Co Cork he had studied with the Holy Ghost Fathers to go to the African Mission. He left the order and came to America to find a job in construction work. Somehow he was working on George's house doing some renovations. George convinced him that a degree was a better meal ticket than labouring. When I met Danny he had completed a bachelor's degree, a masters and was finishing his doctorate. George inspired him, got him going and kept an eye on him and his career in education internationally. George saw what that young lad could not see at the time and showed him the way.
There are several ironies about learning. One is that when the student is ready the teacher arises. Another is that you have to begin where the learner is in themselves. On reflection I experienced and leaned both with George.
George was a significant person in my life. Would that I had been a more gracious student and protegee. None the less I am in part what he made me.