Howard Gilbert

22 May 2015

It is with sadness that I write that Howard Gilbert died recently at the age of nearly 92.  He was a distinguished adult educator, who was a thoughtful and supportive colleague to everyone he met, and a marvellous advocate for adult learning and learners.  

I first met Howard at the NIACE AGM in 1997 having joined NIACE just three days beforehand.  He was just one of the many people I met that day; but I remember how he took the time to talk to me about my new role; about his involvement with NIACE and about the intricacies of dealing with all the different relationships NIACE had across the adult learning world.

We were to spend more time together as NIACE approached its 80th year celebrations when we began compiling, along with Brian Leighton, “A Passion for Learning: Celebrating 80 years of NIACE support for adult learning”.

It was an enjoyable, interesting, and fascinating experience; and one which enabled me to see Howard at his very best.  He delighted in contacting old friends and renewing old acquaintances as the chapters of the publication were outlined, drafted and re-written.  It gave me, not only an opportunity to find out so much more about NIACE’s history and development over 80 years, but to meet many others who had and would be part of my life at NIACE and shape my thinking about adult learning for many years to come.

Howard delighted in his visits to the office where he was able to connect with the new generation of professional people who were responsible for NIACE’s work at this time, and to reminisce about the changes he had seen.  Our meetings never kept to time; there were always so many stories to tell and these led from one to another, but they were warm and heartfelt tales about why adult learning and skills is as important as it ever was.

As the 80th Anniversary drew near I felt it only fitting to mark his sterling efforts in getting the publication completed by the presentation of a small gift.  I remember the delight on his face when, at the event, he received a desktop inkjet printer – something of a novelty at the time – which took pride of place on his desk.

I shall miss Howard and the phone call I was expecting in October about his attendance at the NIACE AGM.  He called, without exception, every year and I shall be very sorry that the phone doesn’t ring.

Helen Prew
Head of Governance and Compliance
NIACE