Former Chair of the ECA, Howard Gilbert shares his recollections of the life of active ECA member Mary Babris.

My first meeting with Mary was (I think) at Bottisham Village College where the ECA Eastern Region had organised a Conference. I recall little of that meeting except the great warmth of Mary’s reception, and her appreciation that someone from the distant end of the region , on the outer fringe of Hertfordshire, had managed to come.

Later, as Regional Chair, and then Chair of the Association, I came to know her well, and to appreciate that generosity of spirit on a number of different occasions: working groups, committee meetings, Regional and National Conferences.

At times you meet people who are regular and dedicated class members; advocates of the Centre they attend; active in the regional collective, and at the national level. Mary was a member of this unique group of people. She made her life business to promote liberal adult education, and to do so through the ECA.

She had clear ideas about the role of students and was equally clear about the part they should play in governance. It is no exaggeration to say that, at one stage, her devotion kept the Eastern Region alive, but it also helped the longer term stability of the Educational Centres Association’s national organisation.

Mary was a brave lady. She wrote to me following her comparatively recent operation saying that the outcome had been better than expected. “At least” she said “I can speak, although it isn’t always easy to make myself understood. But I’m getting there!” Therefore, it came as a very considerable shock to learn from Hazel Dunn's call, that it was not to be.

Mary’s death is a loss to the ECA; as Bernard Godding puts it, she was a loyal friend of the Association. But her passing is also a loss to the adult education community to which she belonged for many years. Beyond this I think she is a loss to the wider community of citizens. Mary had the knack and touch that enables unique people like her to serve society. She chose to do this through the ECA. We are the grateful beneficiaries of that dedicated service.

Howard Gilbert. 20 January 2008

Date Added: February 15th 2008