Gary Marks, Lifetime achievement award

by | Friday, March 06, 2009

Gary Marks is the director/founder of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)and also the Executive Officer of the Society of Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE). As a part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of SITE, Gary was presented with a lifetime award for his contributions to the organization. You can see the commemorative document that was created here. Glen Bull, who pulled all this together, had asked us to write something in honor of Gary. This is what we came up with:

If Gary Marks didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.

For the longest time we did not believe that Gary Marks was a real person. We knew of him through emails about multiple conference deadlines and a range of manuscript-related editorial decisions. Scraping by, as we were at that time as un-tenured assistant professors, the fact that one person could be responsible for so much seemed too much to comprehend. In our minds, no human could do so much, take care of so many journals, and be in-charge of so so many conferences. More significantly, no human could be so prompt in responding to emails, be they about some minutiae related to errors on conference websites, or the details of getting updates on a journal article.

Intrigued, we tried during multiple visits to SITE conferences to meet with him, to see this person with our own eyes. And yet, year after year, it appeared that fate would not allow us to meet. “Is Gary around?” we would ask innocently, “We were just wondering if we could talk to him.” “Oh.” people would respond, “He was here a minute ago.” Or “I just saw him walk by.” At other times someone would ask us, whether we had met him, and when we said no, we hadn’t, they would tell us, “Oh, you must. You guys would love Gary.” Yes we said, sure, and yet, in our minds was this nagging doubt, growing by the day, as we missed meeting him again and again, as to whether he really existed. He was, in our minds, the Kyser Soze of educational technology (minus the villainous bits), his finger prints on everything, yet the actual person nowhere visible. An imaginary mathematical construct, somewhat like Nicolas Bourbaki, around which the world turned. Gary Marks was center of a grand joke that everybody but the two of us was keyed into.

Finally last year, after we had agreed to present a keynote at SITE, and after multiple email exchanges, we finally did meet Gary. So surprised were we at finally meeting him that we actually mentioned the fact in our keynote address. After all that anticipation, we must say the first meeting was a bit of a letdown, somewhat like Scout meeting Boo Radley. It was straightforward and matter of fact.

What was not a letdown was getting to know this real person, and to experience first hand the truth of what we had been hearing from people all along. Gary was everything people had told us, and more. Gary was (and remains) a gentleman, modest to a fault, efficient and charming, working diligently behind the scenes to ensure everything goes off well in all these organizations and meetings and journals he seems to manage so effortlessly. We got to know him better as we formed the TPACK sig, as Judy describes in her note, through all these interactions our admiration of him grew. Familiarity with Gary, we realized, breeds respect. Knowing him, however, has not reduced the mystery of how he manages all that he does. That mystery, that doubt still remains. What is not in doubt is that these organizations and meetings would not be the same without him.

It has been a pleasure to get to know Gary and to have worked with him. So it gives us great joy that Gary Marks is being honored with SITE’s Lifetime Achievement Award. We know of no one who deserves it more.

If Gary Marks didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.

Topics related to this post: Conference | Fun | Personal | TPACK | Worth Reading

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