‘Memory’s Encouragement’ by Rice’s Gorry explores how to discover significance in one’s life

In a new book, Rice’s Tony Gorry recalls scenes from his earliest postwar childhood and adolescence, weaving his present reality with these images to unlock meaning hidden in the remembered moments. Gorry helps his mother, discovers his father’s combat heroics, goes on adventures with his dog, sleds, watches clouds and learns slowly about the world of a small town in New York and the attitudes and principles that govern his parents’ generation.

TONY GORRY

Published this month by Paul Dry Books, the 173-page memoir “Memory’s Encouragement” reveals that while these moments on their surface may appear “ordinary,” they point the way to a life well-lived.

“I began writing it when I was first diagnosed with leukemia about eight years ago,” said Gorry, the Friedkin Professor Emeritus of Management at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Prior to his retirement, he was also a professor of computer science and the director of the Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning at Rice.

“I thought about the ways in which my parents had faced adversity,” Gorry said. “And as I wrote some about their lives, I began to better understand aspects of my own. I published a short essay about my confrontation with leukemia that received quite a bit of attention, so I began to expand it as well. And soon I found I was integrating my experience as a teacher, researcher and consultant in some reflections on our lives in the ‘high-speed’ lane of the internet. Last I found myself returning to a piece I published in the Classical Journal on the challenges of learning ancient Greek. Over time, all these came together in my memoir that extends from my birth during the Second World War to the present day.”

Gorry also “remembers” events at which he was never present, such as the evening his parents first met and his father’s World War II experiences. He explores these recollections — not really memory at all — and finds them as important to the way he understands his life as those he actually lived through, he said.

At the center of “Memory’s Encouragement,” Gorry writes about his decision to study Greek in his 60s; he wanted to read Homer in the original. As he began to learn the ancient language, Gorry, one of the first Ph.D. students in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also came to realize that he was going to have to slow down to learn well. In Homer’s depiction of warriors in battle at Troy or in his account of Odysseus seeking to re-establish himself in Ithaka, the author finds examples that have given him strength.

“My research and teaching at Rice gave me a needed perspective on the way technology mediates our lives,” said Gorry, who is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics. “By taking classes in ancient Greek, I was able to pursue a longtime interest and gain important new ways of thinking about my father and myself.”

Mulling over the place of sickness and death in life, Gorry discusses his own experience of living with cancer for many years as well as the decline of his parents and uncle. Deepened by his memories and imagination, enriched by reading, Gorry gives readers an example of how to find significance in one’s life.

“I found that writing the book brought my past more to life in the present,” Gorry said. “I hope readers will see in my stories the power of the past to strengthen one in difficult times.”

Gorry will give a reading and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. April 20 at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. For more information, go to www.brazosbookstore.com/event/tony-gorry-memorys-encouragement.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.