Earlier this week, Terry Wheeler passed away. Terry taught at McGill, and was curator of the Lyman Entomological Museum. He was a fantastic naturalist, praised the role of museums and natural history in modern science, and was generally quite a lot of fun. About 10 months ago, he was diagnosed with fairly aggressive brain cancer, which eventually took him from us.
Terry was what I would call an Exceptionally Very Good Person. Over the years that we knew each other, he was championing those who needed a voice, promoting those who needed more volume, and often acting as a sounding board for those in need, myself included.
In particular, Terry and I often ended up discussing what role modern universities played in the nurturing of the whole person, rather than the provision of qualifications or job-relevant skills, which may not be that surprising given we were both strong advocated of the importance of natural history. We also both came from a strong liberal arts background, and this culminated in my take on pastoral care in science, which I wrote a year ago this week. Which now seems very fitting.
We shared a connection to Newfoundland (him by birth, me by long residence), and we would often banter about Jam Jams, Jigg’s Dinner, and our fondness for turr and single malt whisky. We often joked about meeting there, on George Street, or up in Twilingate.
I will, however, always regret never meeting him in person. We connected online (first via Twitter, then via email), and I can only imagine what it must have been like to spend time with him in the field, in the kitchen, by the fire.
So tonight I break out the Laphroaig, turn up the Shannygannock, and celebrate the life of someone genuinely loved by so many.
Long may your big jib draw, Terry.