Journalist and academic Mike Grenby, who mentored thousands of students and pioneered innovative teaching techniques during a 20-year career at Bond University, has died following a short illness. He was 78.
Emeritus Professor Michael Ian Grenby was born in London in 1941 but left the UK with his family for Vancouver, Canada at the age of eight.
At 17 he hitchhiked across the country, sparking a life-long love of travel that he indulged until only months before succumbing to cancer on Wednesday, July 3.
The talented writer graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in 1963 and went on to study at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, one of the world’s leading journalism schools and home of the Pulitzer Prizes.
He received a Master’s degree in Journalism with High Honours from Columbia in 1964 and returned home to work at The Vancouver Sun where he remained for 25 years, becoming the newspaper’s personal finance columnist.
Prof Grenby’s award-winning money advice column was syndicated across Canada and at its peak ran in 54 newspapers every week.
He met his Cronulla-born wife Mandy at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver in 1965. She was a nurse and he was a patient.
Mrs Grenby would later say she knew she was going to marry the journalist as soon as she walked into his room, and they tied the knot in 1967.
In the spirit of the freewheeling 1960s the couple embarked on a year-long round-the-world hitchhiking honeymoon.
During the trip Mrs Grenby took her new husband to her homeland and he fell in love with Australia.
After reading a magazine article about Bond University, Mrs Grenby posed a question to her husband: “Perhaps you could teach there?”
In 1998 Prof Grenby was offered a one-year contract to teach entry-level journalism.
The following year he heard about a public speaking subject developed by the university.
Prof Grenby went on to teach the subject with gusto for 19 years, attracting international attention from publications including the Harvard Business Review.
Mandy Grenby died in 2001 but Prof Grenby remained on the Gold Coast at Bond University where he was known for his then-unconventional approach to teaching which involved students bashing a bar stool with a foam pool toy and other techniques aimed at curing their fear of public speaking.
"If you can't communicate confidently, one, you won't get the date, two, you won't get the job and three, you won't be successful in your job," he said in 2005. "And the main problem with public speaking is fear of public speaking."
New generations of students continue to take Public Speaking in its new format as a two-week workshop (The Unfair Advantage, part of the Beyond Bond core program) and also as a full credit, post-graduate subject (Mastering Public Speaking).
Both culminate with the students delivering a speech under the university’s iconic arch while clad in a toga, now a much-loved tradition at Bond.
Prof Grenby was a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and his students have gone on to positions of power and influence around the world, particularly in the Australian media.
However, more than a staff member, Prof Grenby was an integral part of the Bond community.
Away from the university, Prof Grenby made good use of his three passports, travelling the globe for months at a time, writing about his experiences for publications around the world.
He was also active in various Gold Coast community organisations. He acted as a mentor at the Gold Coast Toastmasters Club, had a “Food for Thought” show on various foodie topics on radio station 4CRB and did fund-raising as a volunteer at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.
He is survived by his son Matt, daughter-in-law Irene and his two grandchildren, Parker and Thatcher.
Bond University Vice Chancellor and President Tim Brailsford bestowed the title of Emeritus Professor upon Mike Grenby shortly before his death in honour of his decades of service to the university.
“Mike had battled cancer with incredible bravery, courage and dignity over recent times and his passing will be felt by many in our community – colleagues, students and alumni,” Professor Brailsford said.
“Above all, Mike will be remembered for his gregarious style; embracing campus life and engaging in intellectual discourse on a wide range of topics.
“He was a life-blood of our institution and everyone enjoyed his company.
“We will miss Mike Grenby.”
A memorial service for Prof Grenby will be held from 1pm on Tuesday, July 9 at Fabian Fay Clubhouse, Bond University.
The family asks that instead of flowers and in accordance with Prof Grenby’s wishes, donations support the legacy of the Mike Grenby Fund at Bond University.