Dr Geoff Fagan, 7 January 1947 - 31 July 2017
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Posted by: Jennifer Armstrong
Geoff Fagan was many things. An educator; gifted storyteller; outdoor enthusiast; radical thinker; community activist; amazing husband to Linda and wonderful father to Andy and Kylie. Growing up part of an RAF family, his early life consisted of snapshots of far-flung places and his stories of this time were met with incredulity, often involving communist rebel groups and hitchhiking in RAF jets. He trained as a teacher at Culham College, Oxford, however, it quickly became clear that formal classroom-based education was not Geoff’s style. Finding a better fit within informal education, as a Youth and Community Tutor at the Greenhill Community Centre. In this role, he had the opportunity to utilise his mountain leadership skills and ran numerous youth outdoor education trips. It was also at the Centre that he would meet, and work alongside, his future wife Linda. In 1978, the next big changes would come. A job offer at the University of Strathclyde as a Community Education lecturer, a spontaneous wedding to Linda (they already had the ski holiday booked and so thought it may as well be a honeymoon) and a move to Scotland were all on the cards. After a wild guess at potential places to set up home, they liked the sound of Lochwinnoch, and moved up to the village that would become their home for the next forty years. With his vision and leadership, the CADISPA project (Conservation and Development in Sparsely Populated Areas) was established at the University of Strathclyde. His concept was deceptively simple – how do we help rural communities help themselves?
Through CADISPA he engaged remote and isolated communities, typically in Scotland (but later across Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and even parts of rural Tibet) to help local people build a sustainable environment of their own design and making. For over thirty years, he personally worked alongside scores of communities and through his quiet leadership he helped them raise millions of pounds for local development projects. He was invited to be part of President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development and as a visiting scholar at numerous universities around the world, and is a former President of the International Association of Public Participation. All of which enabled him to be an engaged advocate for the communities he so passionately worked with and a global ambassador for Scottish sustainable development. His work took him across the Highlands and Islands of rural Scotland – and he took his family on all of his adventures; believing that experiential learning was more powerful than being stuck in the classroom - and embedding in his children a love of the outdoors, and deep commitment to social justice and community empowerment. Geoff was an eternal optimist, and his positive view of on life; his quick wit, weird sense of humour and kind heart made for a wonderful friend, neighbour, husband and father. He was never happier than when sailing on his beloved boat or hiking in the wild places of Scotland. He was committed to the notion that it is within everyone’s ability to affect change in the world, and instilled in those he loved a belief that anything was possible, if only you tried. His family would like to thank the local district nurses and the staff and volunteers at St Vincent’s Hospice in particular, for their unwavering care and support.