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East-West Center leader had sharp wit


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POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2009

University of Hawaii professor emeritus Dr. G. Raymond Nunn, a historian, linguist, author and first director of the East-West Center, is remembered for his sharp wit and dedication to research.

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“;He was a delightful man, witty, and very well-focused,”; said Robert McGlone, a UH associate professor of history who worked with Nunn for more than two decades. “;He would go to the end of the world to nail down a manuscript or find a reference. He's a guy whose dedication to his craft and to the university merits recognition.”;

Nunn died April 8 following a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 90.

A native of England, he was one month away from receiving his economics degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1940 when he was called to fight in World War II for the British army. He served in India, Singapore, Burma and Indonesia, and transferred to the Indian army after a year, according to his wife, Margaret.

When he returned from the war, Nunn graduated with a B.A. honors degree in Japanese from the London School of Oriental and African Studies. A job at the University of Michigan brought him and his wife to the United States in 1951.

After 10 years at Michigan, he came to Hawaii to set up the East-West Center in 1961, said his daughter, Lesley Love.

Nunn taught himself several languages, including Hindi and Japanese, and was eventually able to speak more than six languages and read and write more than 10, his daughter said.

A highly regarded historian and author of 19 books, he was one of the premier bibliographers of Asian reference materials and pioneered the Southeast Asia Collection at UH Hamilton Library, said Love. He retired in 1997.

“;He was always smiling, always had a joke, and never angry,”; said Margaret Nunn. “;He worked very hard. He would never stop (writing).”;

Nunn is survived by wife E. Margaret Nunn, daughters Pamela Nunn and Lesley Love, son Michael Nunn, five grandchildren, niece Geraldine Weiss and her three children.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Clement's Episcopal Church. At the family's request, any donations should go to the G. Raymond Nunn Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Hawaii Foundation.