On January 11, 2022, former Booth UC board member and generous supporter, Gordon Fairbank, was promoted to Glory in Ontario at the age of 89.
Gordon and his late wife Jean’s commitment to education impacted the Booth UC community in a myriad of ways. As Dr. Donald Burke noted in his tribute at Gordon’s funeral, “His interest was motivated, I think, by a strong conviction that an investment in education is critical for the future of The Salvation Army.” This conviction found many footholds over the years, particularly in the John Fairbank Memorial Library.
As The Salvation Army’s only degree granting institution, Booth UC’s extensive library collection reflects the academic rigour and requirements of its faculty and students. In 2003, there was a great need for new software to aid with the cataloguing of the collection. Meagan Morash, Director of Library Services at Booth UC remembers when the library search system was on its last legs. “We never knew if we’d walk in the next morning to the dreaded system error that meant we had to restore from our last back-up. All the new books added and circulation data since then would be lost”.
Gordon and Jean Fairbank had already been long-time supporters of Booth UC’s library, helping to grow it from a small closet space in 1982 to its current location at 290 Vaughan Street in Winnipeg. They met this challenge in 2003 with funding for a new software system, in honour of their late son, John Fairbank.
John Christopher Fairbank was born profoundly deaf in 1967. At that time, the services for the Deaf were limited and closed captioning was rare. Books became his window on the world and portal to knowledge and learning and he became a voracious reader. John passed away unexpectedly in 1997 at the age of 29 from complications due to diabetes. Support for the library was a fitting way to honour his memory and show the Fairbank’s commitment to education.
“Gordon and Jean Fairbank were foundational to the library. They rescued the staff from certain digital disaster, made the space more comfortable for students, and brought countless necessary resources within reach of Booth UC, CFOT, and community patrons who walked through the doors and then back out to the community. That impact is immeasurable.” Meagan states.
This feeling is echoed by all who walk through the doors of the John Fairbank Memorial Library. We say a prayer of thanks for Gordon’s “indomitable spirit”, as Dr. Burke termed it during his funeral tribute, and its lasting legacy at Booth UC.