Geoffrey & Alix O'Grady Scholarship in Linguistics

Geoffrey O'Grady (1928-2008)

Born in Australia, Geoffrey O’Grady was in the vanguard in the restoration of Aboriginal languages to places of respect. During six years in the Australian bush as a young man, O'Grady developed an alphabet for Nyangumarta, jumpstarting a locally initiated literacy program and the establishment of a newspaper that's still published today. A historical researcher, O'Grady said a loss of language is a "big loss to humanity. It gives people a dignity and a feeling of belonging."

Dr. O'Grady, whose work enormously influenced the study of Australian languages, was honoured in an international collection of articles presented to him upon his retirement.

Dr. O'Grady had a true partner in his wife Alix, who met Geoff at university in Australia after enduring difficult times during and following the Second World War. A scholar herself, Alix is well known as a historian of Russian exploration on the northwest coast of North America.

Dr. O'Grady first started recording Canadian languages while at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, later studying native languages on Vancouver Island through the University of Victoria. Also recognized as a leading scholar in B.C. and the Yukon, he helped develop a writing system for Hul'q'umi'num', a language spoken from Cowichan to Nanoose Bay. The writing system allowed the community to develop lesson plans and grammar for the classroom, and led to the eventual publication of a dictionary and many types of reading materials in the Hul'q'umi'num' language, co-produced by academic and community linguists.

Geoffrey O’Grady died at the age of 80 after a long illness. Throughout the ten years following a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, he maintained the humanity, good humour and passion others remembered him for and which made him a very popular professor.

Dr. John Esling, professor emeritus, UVic Department of Linguistics, established this endowed scholarship in honour of his colleague.

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