Last week a light went out in our world. A light for which there is no replacement. Alan Gibson spent his life shining this light into so many areas and illuminated so many mysteries for us, in a profession that has so few certainties. To many Alan was known for his lucid and eloquent writing, facilitative teaching style, and hard-hitting frankness in his consultancies. But, for me it will be his quick wit, public repartee, and incisive humor that will forever stand out, as quintessentially Alan.

In the 18 years that I knew him Alan was always somehow a critical influence on my thinking every time I started a new project and needed an impartial confidant to sort out what should and should not be done; an oasis of reason in a desert of confused and disparate interests.

Alan and his colleagues at Springfield have continued to uphold a long tradition of preeminent teaching institutions serving the needs of those us, in international development, that focus on what, these days, is called the bottom of the pyramid. In the 70s SIET in Hyderabad, with contributors like David McClelland, was the Mecca for innovations in small business and entrepreneurship promotion, this mantle was passed on to the UPISSI in Philippines and the Cranfield School of Management with Malcolm Harper in the 80s. Then in the 90s Alan Gibb and the Durham Business School took over this role, until in 2000 when the Springfield Centre offered its first course. Because of its outstanding quality and its commitment to practical applications, this course has become a “must” for any professional in our métier. Though there are others that try to copy training in market development, no one even comes close to Springfield. Alan was an essential driving force in making this all of this happen, and over so many years.

But there is one quality for which I will always respect, honor and remember Alan; that is, his conviction to “doing the right thing”. In this regard he was fearless! Some may have called him obstinate, but Alan was never rash in reaching in conclusions. Once he had thoughtfully researched his position he was always eager to draw up a course of action, enlist whatever support he could get and confront the demons or windmills that stood in his way. In an age when this kind of challenge can frequently result in reputational risks and even personal financial loss Alan was a faithful warrior and champion for doing the right thing. He was a standard bearer! The world, or at least our corner of it, would be a better place with more people like Alan. The light went out on Alan far too early and we are all the poorer for it having done so.

Jim Tomecko

February 12, 2018

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