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Dr Steve Luke and Sociology at Canterbury – by Terry Austrin

From Steve Luke’s Memorial Service, 13 November 2008

Memories of Steve by Associate Professor of Sociology Terry Austrin, Head of School of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Canterbury, Aotearoa/New Zealand

I am speaking here today on behalf of the School of Sociology and Anthropology. Some members of the school, staff and students, are present today and others send their commiserations.

Steve was an important member of our community and your loss, following the recent celebration of the award of his PhD, and the promised publications flowing from it, is also our loss. I chaired the session in which he defended his arguments and later that evening went with him, his examiner Nick Perry, Rosemary du Plessis and Geoff Fougere to celebrate his success. I remember vividly the account of his extraordinary life that he gave on that night. It struck me at the time that it was a version of a full and a rich life. A strange life but a rich life. A life well lived.

Steve was important to us because he was one of our best students, a brilliant intellectual whose interests were wide ranging. He entered into our School in 1999 and Belinda Mortlock, who was responsible for first year students at the time, remembers him going to see her about his first Sociology essay for which he had been given a D. It turned out that the reason for this low grade was because the tutor at the time could not understand the language he used. He went on to get an A in that first course but I can testify that many lecturers in later years came up against the language that he used and his intelligence. Throughout his whole career in the University he never received a grade below A and his PhD was given a distinction.

Steve was important to us because as well as being passionate about ideas he was also generous with those ideas. He shared his knowledge and assisted others – both students and staff. Our community, like all communities, rests on that willingness to share. Steve was exemplary.

Finally it is important for us to remember what sort of person Steve was. Over the last few days every one that I have spoken to has given me a version of Steve that stressed his gentleness. As one staff member put it to me – ‘He was so intelligent. I loved his gentleness’. That is how I will remember him. His combination of intelligence and gentleness is so rare. It is important for us to remember what it produced and what we have lost.

I now hand over to Rosemary du Plessis who knew him much better than I did.

Rosemary’s memories of Steve

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