Irwin DeVries passed away last week. He will be missed so much, by so many of us.

His career in education spanned five decades: he was at the Open Learning Agency in the early eighties, and over the years he made immense contributions to the Justice Institute of BC, TRU Open Learning (retiring as our Associate Vice-President), Royal Roads University, and elsewhere. But his influence and impact goes far beyond the places he worked. He was a true leader in the educational community, a fantastic collaborator, and a thoughtful and passionate practitioner. His values and his work live on with the many people he mentored, guided, encouraged and assisted. “Open Learning” was not just a place to Irwin, nor was it simply his profession. If you were lucky enough to know Irwin, you know that he approached open learning as a calling, a set of noble principles, and these were things he lived up to in all respects of his life.

As impressive as Irwin was as an educator, thinker, and leader it was as a person where he was truly exceptional. Kind, thoughtful, caring and unbelievably generous. He was not afraid to make tough decisions or do things that made some people unhappy. But whatever he was doing, the values of staying human and the mission of the open educator were always paramount. And of course, you can’t discuss Irwin without remembering his exceptional sense of humour, utter lack of pretence and ego, and immense talent as a musician.

He was the best friend anyone could have. And I will be forever grateful to him. This is where I get sloppy. Ever since it was clear his illness was serious, and especially since he passed, I’ve been wading through photos, videos, and countless recordings of jam sessions. Sharing grief with friends, knowing that many others feel the same way. I was expecting this, but am still not settled with the loss. So before I throw some more or less random memories down, I want to share a memorial.

I’m thankful to Brenna for thinking to establish a scholarship in Irwin’s name. This scholarship will be dedicated to TRU’s Open Learning students. Irwin was deeply committed to the Open Learning mandate, and the mission of serving students who might otherwise be shut out from higher education. (We’ve recently started collecting some of these stories on this site.) If we reach our goal of $25,000, the Irwin DeVries Scholarship Fund for Open Learning Students will be endowed in perpetuity. If we fall short, all funds will be dispersed to Open Learning students.

In case you are wondering, we discussed this scholarship fund with Irwin last year, and he was moved by the idea. He did not want us making a fuss about his illness. We were hoping to do some kind of online fundraising teach-in with his participation, but this all moved faster than we expected. We’ve also gotten the go-ahead from his family.

We understand there are many worthy causes and needs, but if you wish to contribute to this memorial (tax deductible in Canada), there is a form at:

[UPDATE, May 8: I just learned that we have reached our goal, and that the scholarship will be endowed. Immense thanks to the many donors.]

I guess that is the important stuff, but I also need to share a few more personal memories. I’ve seen a number of people express things since the news of his passing, and a lot of the same themes come up. Gratitude for his support and mentorship is a common one: “he believed in me, and it meant so much”.

Irwin’s seemingly dazed, distracted and absent-minded manner also comes up a lot. Many of my favourite Irwin stories start from this. Though once you knew him it was clear he was keen and perceptive and didn’t miss a trick. His mind was always going. A friend observed to me “I think he was just infinitely curious about the world and sometimes its wonders overwhelmed him.”

So as much as I want to celebrate the leader, the educator and sage I also treasure the true friend, the beer and travel buddy, the bandmate and master of jams, and the legendary goofball. His sense of humour was eclectic as the rest of him: sometimes dry as a bone and drawing on real erudition, other times pure uncut silliness. He laid down some of the most brutal puns ever inflicted on humanity, and I usually reacted with visceral disgust. He’d act as if he was sorry, but we knew he’d pun again.

I would not have come to TRU if it wasn’t for Irwin, though I didn’t know him well when I applied for the job in 2012. I was not at all sure I wanted to leave a good job at UBC, and a home in East Van that our family loved. Irwin was on the hiring committee, and I immediately felt a rapport. The thought of working alongside him as another Director at Open Learning seemed intriguing.

I hope it’s safe to say now that Irwin went outside the lines with the protocols and rules of a university search with me. He gave me a lift back to the hotel after the interviews and told me flat out he would love it if we could work together. He also said in the coming days I could ask him anything I needed in order to make my decision, that he would answer with total honesty, and that it would stay completely between us. I took him up on that, he lived up to his word, and it made all the difference.

After I arrived at TRU, I found myself placed in all sorts of situations that were new to me. In the subsequent weeks, months… hell, years I was barging into his office any time I saw his door open to ask his take on whatever new and often trivial development was baffling or appalling me. His response was always a sly smile, saying “hey man”, and nodding at the door, which meant I should shut it and sit down. I knew then and now how lucky I was that he gave me so much time. And that what I understand now as “mentorship”, from a highly experienced and skilled leader, felt at the time like talking shit and cracking jokes.

Shortly after I started at TRU, the Open Education Conference had its 2012 event in Vancouver. I was a co-organizer with Scott Leslie, who had the brilliant idea to host the conference dinner on a boat, along with a jam session of some the musicians in attendance. It was so much fun to drum along with talented musicians, and it was the first time I played with Irwin… You can see us in this clip. It’s a song most of us are playing for the first time, and of course Irwin plays guitar beautifully and with restraint in the background. (A lot of memories with dear friends loaded up in here.)

Irwin told me after that he wanted to play music with me in Kamloops, and we set out to find a band. And a few fits and starts became Breaking Band. We were so lucky to have Dave and Ronda Olds give us the regular use of The Bassment, and with them and Matt Dyck we played most Tuesday nights for five years, along with a handful of house parties and assorted odd gigs.

A thing I have always appreciated is how when we get together everybody seems to get a sense of the collective mood and we jam accordingly. Some nights we focus on trying to get a tricky cover to sound right. Some nights we compose an original song. Some nights we jam freeform and maybe stumble on something we love. Some nights we randomly pick songs we know and try a few we don’t know. Some nights we only play a few songs and tell stories and laugh. Now that I think of it, we laugh no matter what.

I will forever love all my Breaking Band-mates, and Irwin was an incredible part of it all. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular and underground music, from decades past and the present day. It was hard to stump him… Most times, all you had to do was name a song title and he would play it pretty well. Give him time to listen and run it through a couple of times, and he could nail anything. He was also a gearhead and audiophile… He could get lost in his many effects pedals, and we made fun of how often he spilled his beer, but he was also so generous as a musician you had to love him. Looking back, I still cannot believe what we had as a social hobby.

And it wasn’t just there that his skills as a musician shone. Irwin was always up for wherever and however music was being made: full gear rock outs in rented studios, living room acoustic singalongs, playing with synthesizers just about anywhere. We might play an old fave hit (or cheeseball tune that made us laugh), play long extended psychedelic noodles, or work together to write a song. He had solid production skills and loved making records with others, or in his home studio. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to know a few people who are highly skilled musicians, yet able to play with anyone, even complete beginners, and the result is always huge fun. And Irwin is right up there. I have hundreds of hours of poorly labeled and disorganized raw recordings of jams with him, usually recorded off a phone. A lot of it probably not impressive from the listener perspective, it was the participation that was the thing. What strikes me is how often when a song ends, the next sound is usually one of laughter. These samples are probably not the best examples, but they came up quickly when I went looking, and the memories made me smile, so I will go with them.

“You May Be Right” – Irwin and I duet Billy Joel in Michelle and Kevin’s living room. What does it say we all know the words? Irwin starts us off by saying “so, you wanna just play some notes and see what comes?”, which was a common song starter.

“Salamander Scanner” – my living room along with Grant and Harry, absurdist lyrics made up on the fly by Irwin after some wordplay, as he loved to do. (OK, I admit it, I love this stupid track so much because it is the closest we ever got to sounding like a Guided by Voices song.)

Alan Levine wrote a wonderful reflection that captures how music framed Irwin’s qualities as a friend, sharing some fun clips along with some fantastic photos. It was so great to have Alan in town.

Irwin and I knew how lucky we were to have some of the work trips that TRU brought us… The ones prompted by the OERu and its diverse international alliance of open, online and distance institutions were especially memorable. I still cannot believe I got to see South Africa with Irwin and my then-new friend Rajiv, and we may have experienced Peak Irwin when we somehow lost him on Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned) — remember what I was saying about his dazed and distracted manner? Rajiv and I were feeling very concerned as the last boat of the day pulled off the island with Irwin still very much missing. He arrived later on the staff boat, having received some scolding from them, as apparently he was the most confused tourist they had ever had. I still don’t know how we lost him. Just one of many unforgettable adventures on that trip.

There are too many other episodes and memories on the road with Irwin to recount. But as I sit here I remember when we got Michelle to join us in a weird word game based on the 5 R’s in Edinburgh. Or hotel room jams in Utah, where Irwin almost got our instrument rental kiboshed after an hour of negotiation because he correctly thought the music store owner was charging too much money for mediocre instruments. As easygoing as he was, he had a perverse side and could be very stubborn if he sensed unfairness. I still gave him hell at the time for almost blowing a painfully constructed deal where we had no alternatives for gear. Later, of course, we laughed about it.

I shot these videos when we were at the National Music Centre in Calgary. We had a long layover, so D’Arcy Norman took us out for breakfast and we hit the NMC. We found the interactive activities good reason for silliness.

Irwin once got me out of bed in Hobart, Australia at 4:00 AM after a lot of knocking on my hotel door and eventually getting the front desk to call me. He informed me that my house back on Paul Lake had just burned down, that my family was safe but everything I owned was gone. I was set to begin the long trip back to Canada in a few hours. We went for a walk on the empty streets, then stopped in an all-night coffee shop as I tried to process what was happening.  As always he was there for me: caring, wise, and ready to marvel at the crazy dark absurdity of it all. A few hours earlier, we had sat up late drinking whisky and sharing gratitude for our good fortune in life, and of being in Australia together with inspiring people. As the sun came up in the coffee shop that morning, I mostly remember us sitting at the table making each other laugh at how weird life can be.

My family broke up around the same time, and my son left town to be with his mom. It was the low point of my life. I was lonely, now middle-aged, living in a short-term furnished basement, and had no social life in Kamloops outside of work. The work itself was frustrating and seemed pointless. I looked at my life, had no idea what I thought I was doing, and felt like a total wreck. Irwin’s own living situation was unconventional. His home was hours away in the lower mainland, and he commuted back most weekends. So he too spent his workweeks in a small rental… Suffice to say that during this tough period we saw a lot of each other: band practice on Tuesdays, we’d often make one another dinner, and/or meet at the Fox ‘N Hound for a couple pints after work. I was a miserable mess, making a mockery of self-care, but Irwin could not have been a better friend, or better company. We had a lot of fun, he listened to my endless moaning and self-absorbed ranting, and he would talk straight to me when I was in danger of sinking or inflicting more damage on myself. It’s more fun to think of the high points, but I’m most grateful to Irwin for being there when it was very low.

Maybe my most treasured conversations were after band practice. He and I would both be blissed out from rocking out, but also too amped to sleep. So we’d usually sit in his living room for a nightcap, listen to music, and have long meandering chats that frequently got philosophical. Irwin knew pain and struggle. He’d talk about his lifetime of kidney disease, the times spent in dialysis, the transplants (including one from his wife Jean), and the ongoing fragility he felt about his health. Between the post-jam vibes and the life lessons, a common theme from him was how precious and amazing life was. One reason why he had such contempt for people who were mean, or petty, or who were wrapped up in their ego or power trips was that they failed to appreciate just how amazing it was to be alive. Here we were, paid to work in a field dedicated to learning! We got to play music, to laugh, to meet and spend time with amazing people that we admired and enjoyed. Most Tuesday nights, he’d have me grinning and shaking my head in disbelief with him, amazed at how lucky we were to be alive amidst so many wonderful people and things.

When Irwin told his friends last year that he had cancer, as usual he was calm and reassuring. He said it had been caught early, and the prognosis was good. I worried how his constitution would respond to chemo, and sure enough it ended up being too much for him. He let us know he had stopped treatment, that he wanted to use his remaining time with family and friends. Last month, he and Rajiv came to Kamloops for a long weekend. He was thin, but otherwise said he felt great and he was the same person he’d always been. We jammed music in my living room. Connected with old friends. Had beer with colleagues at the Fox. We talked and gossiped about work. He indulged my stupid complaints and grievances. Rajiv, my son Harry, Irwin and I made a backroad trip to the Falkland Pub in the terrain surrounding Kamloops that he always enjoyed.

He seemed so good, I thought we would have more visits, and we made plans for future jams and friend connections. I got a little sloppy and sentimental at times. I even told him that I didn’t really hate his puns that much. Later he took advantage of that by unleashing some real howlers. As we were saying goodbye in front of my house, I told him as clearly and directly as I could what he meant to me. And I’ll always treasure what he said back. He was the epitome of grace and kindness. Of course I will miss him. I’m sitting here now at our usual table in the Fox, where I have been writing this over the past couple evenings, with tears in my eyes. But I am so, so glad to have known him, learned from him, and that he was my friend.

— “Parsley in Her Teeth” – co-written (and with horn) by David Olds

Thank you Tom Woodward for some of these photos, including the cover image.

73 thoughts on “Irwin

  1. “It was the participation that was the thing.” That is why I loved Irwin so much. There were many times I found myself having the time of my life with amazing people because Irwin was so welcoming and invited me to just be. Try cool things! Take risks! Don’t worry about what might happen! And now listening to the “You may be right” jam it reminds me that too many people don’t have someone like Irwin helping them to enjoy the moment, the participation. I’ll always think about that, and notice where I can extend invitations to just be, just like Irwin did.

    1. I decided not to add a riff about how what Irwin and other great music-jam friends have taught me about learning… How magic happens when the most knowledgeable are also great listeners, even to the ones who haven’t found their voice yet. And help people feel like they can join the fun as equals. Maybe another post.

  2. Oh Brian. Thank you. I know how difficult this post was to write, but I am eternally grateful that you did and shared some memories of the Irwin you knew. I’ll always cherish the night at your place celebrating a successful ETUG (which Irwin was instrumental in establishing and a group that has meant so much to so many of us in the BC higher education space) and playing music until the wee hours of the morning, Irwin’s guitar emitting all kinds of joyful noises. I feel lucky to have known him.

    1. Thank you Clint. What you shared in the immediate period of Irwin’s passing helped me make sense. And man, do you remember that ETUG night at my place, how Irwin kept turning his amp up and playing crazy shit even though my landlord was texting me and begging me to make him be quiet?!

  3. Thank you for such a wonderful post Brian. What a guy, and such a kind and gentle soul. His music and influence on open learning will live on. I feel blessed to have known and jammed with him. X

    1. I meant to embed the video of us at that music museum where you and Irwin had a hard-core post-it note confrontation therapy session. I could not seem to find it when writing the post… I may add it yet!

  4. Brian, thank you so much for sharing these stories and songs with us. Irwin created the position I’m in, so I would have never come to TRU if it were not for his vision. In my early days here, Irwin came to town and we went out for a beer or two. The advice he shared was subtle but it has kept me on (mostly) the right path over my 4 1/2 years here. That afternoon, he and I laughed a lot and talked about music, the endless absurdity of academia, and the marvellous power and potential of open education. I’ve never forgotten the kindness and generosity he showed me. Thinking of all of you who knew him so well and were lucky enough to share so much time with him.

    1. I think he must have loved being able to offer an unvarnished take on something he was clear of! I’m glad you got to enjoy his takes.

  5. Brian, what a beautiful homage to an apparently incredible guy. I didn’t know Irwin well, but through your words, videos, and photos, you’ve allowed those who knew him to reminisce, and those who didn’t, to ‘see’ him. Thank you for this heartfelt post. Sending my condolences.

  6. Nice one. Tx for this Brian. Irwin was one of a kind and will be missed, especially our laughs over lunch on the North Shore when we got together. Damn.

    1. I got an extra kick the few times I got to sit with the two of you at the same time. Looking back, I wish I’d had the sense to just be quiet and listen at times like that. 🙂

    1. I don’t know if you remember, but when I wondered if I should go to TRU… you were lukewarm, but you said, “Irwin is cool, you will like him.”

  7. This came as a great shock to me. Irwin was just such a great guy. This is a truly fitting tribute. Many, many thanks for this.

  8. “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.” ~ Irving Berlin

    This post is loving tribute to to his joy, creativity, generosity, guidance, and most of all – friendship. He will be deeply missed, and we are all richer to have know him.

    1. All the love to you Justin. I’m so grateful your father introduced us to you. (And set us up for jams with you and your other very skilled musician friends!)

  9. Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful words, memories, pictures. It’s no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t have had the biggest adventure of my life without Irwin. He gave me the opportunity and the encouragement to make that jump across an entire ocean. But one of my strongest memories of him is sitting quietly in a bar in Vancouver talking about the value of friendship and the people in our lives we were grateful for. I will miss him terribly.

    1. That is so great, he really did have so much appreciation for his friends, you included.

      We were so grateful when we arrived in Edinburgh more or less without notice (I think making the arrangements for that were my job, hmmm) and you curated a day of wonderful meetings and demos with your incredible team. And then you joined us a couple times for drinks. I think that was the first occasion for him to meet you?

  10. I know how much Irwin meant to you as a friend and a mentor, and I have to say the relationship you two were able to forge was enviable. Rocking both the learning and the music while on the same wavelength must have be some kind of magic. I’m so sorry for everyone’s loss with the passing of this wonderful cat, but let the music and joy he shared live on.

    I was particularly touched by your mention of his no having time for the pettiness and the meanness that comes with so much of the work any of us do, and I am trying to hold on to your sharing of his wisdom here, in what is truly a generous and glorious reflection of a person who deeply touched your life. Abracci!

    1. I am remembering when you came to Kamloops for the Day for Learning, and stayed with us out at the lake (apologies to your coccyx for the memory). We stayed up late with Irwin, so he ended up crashing at the house too. I have a fairly vivid memory of us sitting at the dining room table the next morning, and watching old videos of the vintage Canadian kids show The Friendly Giant, and pondering a spinoff, the Gentle Ed Tech Giant. Irwin had a puppet character voice and sensibility nailed.

  11. I did not know Irwin really at all other than to know he was a giant in Open Education, and now I know a lot more about him (and know that I have missed out on greatness). Thank you, Brian, for sharing these awesome memories.

  12. Thank you for these stories and memories of my brother. Beautifully written. He was so much larger than life.

    1. He really was. I’m relieved you and others in the family seem OK with what I wrote here. I did not want to get it wrong somehow. I’m so sorry to you all for this immense loss, and am sending love.

    1. Thank you friend. I decided not to include the clip of your house party Breaking Band gig with us. When the cops arrive to shut us down because of noise complaints, and rather than stop playing Irwin says “one more song” to them, before we do a very rough version of “Wasn’t That A Party” by The Rovers.

  13. I hadnt seen Irwin in years, but I think of him every time I buy a tropical shirt, because back in my suit and tie days, Irwin always wore them, and urged me to do likewise, and now I frequently do too. He was a lovely guy and we enjoyed a number of social evenings together at events and conferences, as well as an extended collaboration when he was at the Justice Institute. I was shocked to see this post, and I appreciate your thoughtful reminiscences.

    1. I’m trying to think if I saw Irwin in a Hawaiian shirt and cannot remember it… but this story definitely tracks! I’m sorry you were hit with this shock. And also sorry that our first communication in so long is under these circumstances. You and Irwin were among the people who laid the foundation for interesting work in this field, especially in BC, and you both impressed and influenced me so much.

  14. Thanks Brian for this tribute to a great friend and talented colleague. A Canadian and international leader in Open and Distance Learning. Personaly, I have always enjoyed having a beer with Irwin whether that be in Kamloops, South Africa, Edinburgh, Vancouver and God knows where else. Kathleen and I had a great time with Irwin & Jean post-conference in Bali. Irwin will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

    1. I enjoyed sitting in on a few of those times you had with Irwin. And hearing stories of some of your other adventures and collaborations.

  15. Thanks for writing this Brian. I too have fond memories of Irwin. When ETUG was in Kelowna and we played music at the Rotary Centre I handed him my fretless bass and he jumped right in, figuring out very quickly that to play in tune you have to put your fingers right where the fret lines were painted on, and not behind them like usual. He took this approach to many things. Theory is one thing, but here’s what we actually do.

    1. I’m glad that among other memories you shared ETUG and music with him. And you see how those sorts of expressions link up to his full being. Thank you for that Mike.

  16. Brian, though I didn’t know Irwin well, I remember him as so warm and welcoming. Thank you for re-kindling the memories. Your open-hearted sharing of what Irwin’s friendship meant to you is such a gift! Sending hugs.

  17. I remember these two Canadian weirdos turning up in October 2016 off the back of an OERu visit to UHI. I think Jen Ross was to blame for ensuring we ended up in a pub shortly after you arrived in my fair city and I think that’s my strongest memory – just sitting chatting together moments after meeting him and feeling super comfortable and delighted.

  18. Brian, thank you for sharing your memories of Irwin. Irwin was indeed a truly special, genuine, kind, and caring individual. I had the honour of meeting Irwin in the 1980’s when he was an instructional designer at the JIBC Fire Academy. We collaborated on the creation of “Edukits” – distant learning packages distributed throughout the province to firefighters. These Edukits consisted of a paper-based course and accompanying VHS video. Very innovative. Over the years I had the privilege of working with Irwin in many contexts. Work isn’t the right word, rather it was fulfilling, engaging, productive and meaningful. I will remember Irwin fondly.

    1. He shared a lot of stories of work he did in that era with the JIBC and it really was impressive. And it was clearly meaningful to him.

  19. Thank you, Brian, for sharing all your great stories and great photos of Irwin. Enjoyed hearing his voice. Your words were so well written I felt as though I was there in person sharing and making all your memories and times with Irwin. Shame the good die young and just seems so unfair but what a mark Irwin has left on us all. I know a piece in me is better because I had the pleasure of knowing Irwin. He will be TRUly missed.

  20. Dear Brian, I’m writing to you from my home in Spain and I have recently heard about Irwin. So much of life has come to pass since the times we all shared at TRU. Your tribute captured his essence, spirit, and quirky personality that made him so special. He was truly “one of a kind”. Many thanks to you for sharing your insightful and meaningful tribute. Warmest regards, Val Peachey

    1. Thank you Val — the OL “leadership team” that you, Irwin and others built was quite an intimidating yet welcoming thing to be introduced into. I was happy to hear your news from Spain recently — Sarah updated Irwin when he visited and he was also delighted. Congratulations and I wish you and yours every happiness. Disfrutar!

  21. Brian, thanks for your tribute to Irwin. He was also instrumental in my coming to TRU. I was in the private sector and fearful of coming to a big institution with all the bureaucracy. He assured me that we could focus on the work and do great things at OL He was correct. I was sad to see him leave OL and even more so to hear about his passing. The world is a little less bright and open.

    1. I’m smiling as I learn about another person that Irwin was instrumental in coming to OL. Thank you for sharing your memories and the wise words Ken.

  22. Thanks for setting this up, Brian. to celebrate Irwin’s life. I clearly remember my first (might have been my 2nd ETUG) where I saw him on stage rocking it with the band.

    Treasure each life’s moments.

    1. I think I missed the ETUG where that jam happened. I heard all about it, and man did I feel sad to miss out.

      Thank you for coming by, and sharing that about treasuring moments. So true.

  23. An amazing tribute Brian. I will forever cherish all my “Breaking Band” memories! Those are some of the best moments I have had. But more than just music, I learned a lot about being a good person, in my long talks with Irwin. He was a great mentor, friend and bandmate.

    1. Buddy, we’ve talked a lot offline. I almost feel bad putting you in the bucket of “Breaking Band guitarist” as much as you brought to the group, and how much it meant to me. I hope I passed on what Irwin told me once about you as a professional colleague, to me it was the highest praise. If you are fuzzy, sounds like a good reason for us to hang out and share some more stories and memories.

      I’m so grateful you were able to come jam on his December visit.

  24. I’m deeply saddened by the news of Irwin’s passing. Our paths crossed during my time as a learning designer at TRU, where I had the pleasure of sharing countless memorable moments with Irwin and Griff Richards. We formed a camaraderie that extended beyond the professional realm, often ridesharing between Vancouver and Kamloops.
    Irwin’s wit and humor were unparalleled. I remember his incredible puns! Our shared love for SCTV forged a bond, and we delighted in recounting memorable skits from the show. One weekend, I entrusted Irwin with my Big Lebowski special edition, sparking an ongoing cascade of inside jokes and amusing quotes. As did our musings on “crappy” films like Sharktopus and Machete.
    While our discussions may not have always been strictly academic, they traversed a rich tapestry of cultural phenomena. From the eccentricity of Juggalos to the timeless charm of the Trololo guy – remember him?
    Irwin’s memory will forever be a source of warmth and laughter, a testament to the profound impact he had on those fortunate enough to share in his company. What a tremendous loss!

    1. Wow Robert, lovely and on-point memories, thank you so much for sharing them. You say so much so well.

      With all the wonderful moments here, I am almost embarrassed to say I fixate on the SCTV bit. I am an absolute SCTV freak, so my first thought reading is “was Irwin really an SCTV guy this whole time?” For all the cutting up we did that sticks in my mind, I don’t remember a specific SCTV riff between us. But where I am getting to with some happy reminiscing… we must both have had SCTV so embedded in our psyches and sensibilities that when one of us dropped a reference to Dr. Tongue, Sammy Maudlin or whatever, it felt so natural that it barely registered.

  25. Brian—I just found out about Irwin today. This was really a surprise to me—I haven’t seen Irwin in about a year and a half, though we had corresponded a bit since then, and I wasn’t even aware of his illness. I’m noticing, though, how many of the people who have posted here are people I know, which I owe mainly to Irwin and the Open community. He was really at the center of that for me, kind of the hub through which I am connected to many of the people with whom I have so much in common. I missed him before I found out that he had passed, and I miss him more now.

    1. Marc, I hope you picked up on how much Irwin respected and enjoyed you. There was an OERu presentation you gave that we thought was a masterclass in how to communicate effectively with humour. (And for both Irwin and I, that was very high praise.)

      The GIF in the post of Irwin dancing above is from a very fun night in Inverness, and you were there. I’m pretty sure you are in this clip:

  26. Somehow the place I came across this post was… LinkedIn. Life is weird in 2024.

    A beautiful post that read like you sharing your memories of Irwin over beers at a pub. I always love how you tell stories Brian. I’m glad you got to have a visit and tell him what he meant to you. It’s abundantly clear in this post. I hope the process of writing it brought some comfort and joy.

    1. Jeff, thank you so much for your characteristic kindness and support. If I learned anything from Irwin, one of the lessons was to identify the good people we get to know through our work, and to appreciate them.

      I’m so grateful to know you. And hope you know how much I enjoy sharing stories over a beverage with you!

  27. Thank you Brian for the warm and touching tribute to Irwin. He taught me so much about OL and the entire open education movement. He was a gentle soul, totally dedicated to education transforming lives. The world is that bit poorer without him in it.

    1. Thank you Christine, it was a pleasure having you with us on one of those OERu trips to Scotland. (Even if you managed to avoid our silliest hijinks.)

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