Weekly Local Biography

  Glynn Morgan

By Rebecca Lomax, Ph.D.

Glynn Morgan spent 44 years teaching in schools all over the world, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, and now he has retired – almost – in Chiang Mai. I write “almost” because his volunteer life is almost as active as his professional life was.

He was born and educated in South Africa. Off to boarding school at a very early age, he found a talent and a love that would last a lifetime – music. He was forced to sing in his school’s choir at the tender age of nine, and thoroughly dislike it. He complained to his father, but in the way of fathers of that time, found little sympathy. By the time piano became a part of his curriculum, he found that he was beginning to enjoy music and understand it better. When he reached senior school, he had established a strong music tradition in his life and added the study of the organ to his resum้. “HMS Pinafore” was his school’s choice of performances that year, a comic opera in which W. S. Gilbert satirized the snobbery and hypocrisy of the social system of his day. It was even funnier when performed by the all-boys musical troupe. Glynn found himself in the female part of Cousin #13 in the chorus. He continued dramatic and musical performances throughout his university days, and then was tapped by every schoolmaster to lead or assist the schools’ musical department in productions. Music remains a very important part of Glynn’s life. You may remember his solo performance – in German - at the Chiang Mai Choral Society International’s Christmas performance last year.

Glynn married after completing his education and the new family went off to Rhodesia to teach in the public schools there. Glynn was a science teacher; his wife taught music. Three daughters were born to the family. But Rhodesia was entering a period of political change. In 1965, it unilaterally declared itself independent from Great Britain, and became, in essence, an illegal country. The rest of the world, except South Africa, Switzerland and Portugal, sided with Great Britain, and residents of Rhodesia were prohibited from traveling outside of those few countries. For a small land-locked country, Rhodesia became extraordinarily self-sufficient. It maintained its infrastructure; it fed itself and even exported agricultural products. But as time went on, and the country made the transition in leadership to that of Mugabe, long-quiet tensions were felt. At first, there was hope and optimism. The transition did not produce racial violence. Life seemed to be going on quite nicely. The educational system prior to this transition had been good, with all children having access to a primary education that produced English-speaking students. Then a North Korean woman became the de facto Minister of Education, and teachers suddenly became “comrades”. Gradually all of the systems in the country collapsed.

Glynn visited Australia, seeking safer pastures for his family. Just as he returned home, he received an offer from a school in Albury to teach physics. There was no decision to be made. The family was allowed to take $1,000 with them to Australia. Money and property left behind were lost forever. Although everybody assimilated well into Australia, Glynn’s marriage broke up a few years after the move. The children were essentially grown, so he took advantage of another educational challenge and moved to Sydney as an administrator in a private school. The students in the school were privileged, and the parents were protective. Glynn laughingly says that a “no” from him was a signal for protracted negotiations from the parents. But it was a good experience, despite removing him from direct contact with the students. As time went on, he sought other international opportunities, and moved to Papua New Guinea to teach, then, having already stepped off of Australia, he chose an assignment in Central America. El Salvador was not the safest place to live, but Glynn stayed there and taught until he reached the retirement age of 65. But he wasn’t done yet.

He looked around at volunteer opportunities that didn’t discriminate against retired people. Ageism had been rearing its ugly head for a few years, but he had a lot to offer and he wasn’t ready to just watch the world go by. He decided to look at how he could help a group that matches up qualified teachers with schools that teach the international baccalaureate program. Search Associates is one of the larger placement organizations, placing about a thousand teachers a year all over the world. Glynn liked what he learned about them, and he liked the people who ran the Chiang Mai branch. So he retired to Chiang Mai and offered his services. He finds great satisfaction in the small tasks that go into matching a teacher with a job, and loves spending time corresponding with applicants in Turkey, the U.S., South America, Great Britain. He remembers the excitement and challenges of international teaching positions.

But that isn’t all he does. He’s only been in Thailand about a year, so he’s still exploring the country. He’s happy here. He plays tennis and squash; he sings. The Chiang Mai Choral Society International benefits from his training and his beautiful baritone voice. But his musical talent isn’t the only talent he brings to the group. He’s also a linguist, speaking multiple languages, so may sing in German or Spanish as well as English. And he’s working on Thai, although, like most western people, he finds it a “challenge”.

We moved to another topic. There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that many scientists and mathematicians are also gifted musicians. Glynn is both a science teacher and a musician. We agreed that if music fosters anything, it is most likely mathematical reasoning. And mathematical reasoning is the scientific method that all of us learn about in secondary school biology. Do musicians not use the same skills? When I left Glynn Morgan I had a new appreciation of the complex skills involved in education. I look forward to meeting him again.