Monday, September 29, 2014

Remembering Gary: The Gary Marsden Memorial Scholarship in ICT4D

As many of you know, beloved friend, colleague and professor Gary Marsden
who worked hard to create opportunities for students to flourish and grow,
tragically passed away just days before his 44th birthday last December.  It
was an enormous loss for all of us ­ for the field to which he gave so much
intellectual leadership and energy, for Africa, and, most especially, for

In honor the memory of this amazing man, the University of Cape Town has
created the Gary Marsden Memorial Scholarships in ICT4D, to give students
opportunities to study postgrad degrees in ICT4D and to keep his vision

There are two scholarships for UCT Honours, Masters and Doctoral students in

You can find details and can also donate in Gary¹s memory at:

Thank you so much for helping continue Gary¹s legacy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From Joseph "Jofish" Kaye

Like many others here, I was, and am, a huge fan of Gary Marsden, and I enjoyed every minute I spent with him. I met Gary when he gave a talk at Cambridge in 2005 or so, and was blown away: his story about how there was one PC for every 238 people in South Africa but they had 75% cellphone coverage - and why this meant that the focus in HCI really needed to be on mobile - is something I've quoted again and again.  I know my own involvement in research in Haiti and Kenya was directly influenced by his thoughts and approaches, and I'm far from the only one.

I think perhaps Gary's greatest gift was his ability to make you feel that you, too, could make a contribution and make the world a better place through your work.  Gary enabled people to participate, to feel like they were part of the solution. That's a remarkably inspiring message, and one that a lot of academics miss.  He asked me to be on two different thesis committees, something I was happy to do, and I learned a lot from each opportunity, and, I hope, helped out some very smart students too.  At the same time, he had that magic trick of making you feel like you were really smart when you talked to him: you left feeling "Hey! Gary thinks I'm awesome! I must be pretty awesome, then!". It's something I try, hard and often unsuccessfully, to emulate.

I miss Gary. For the first few months after his death I kept thinking I'd seen him walking by, but it never was. I think of him every time I walk into a hotel with a particularly notable carpet. I'll miss running into him when passing through Heathrow. I'll miss him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

From Melissa Densmore

Gary was one of the first official members of the HCI4D advisory board, and generously offered his sage advice and encouragement as Matt and I tried to figure out what we wanted out of a SIGCHI community. But even before that, and even before the beginnings of ICTD and HCI4D communities, Gary (along with Edwin, Susan and others) were pioneers in advocating better understanding of what HCI means for the developing world.  He's been a part of all of our HCI4D workshops in all of their various names, and he's been a key part of our growing community, culminating with his leadership in Interact2013 and ICTD2013. He joked that we made him feel old - a new generation of students trying to make a career out of HCI4D research and practice.  His goals went beyond research - he's worked to build up HCI and Computer Science education in Africa, and has mentored countless African scholars, and helped me to organize the HCI Educator's dinner at Interact2013.

I've wanted to teach in Africa for a long time - and once I met Gary, I knew that I wanted to be at University of Cape Town. Not only is UCT a great university in its own rights, but the opportunity to work with Gary, and to be a part of a growing ICT4D Centre was a dream to me.  And now - I'm not sure what God has in store for me, but I do know that I want to honor Gary's memory and his students by doing the best that I can.

Please do welcome Gil Marsden, Gary's wife, to CHI this year, and thank her for all the ways she has contributed to Gary's role in our community, including years of leaving the kids behind to attend CHI and other conferences. We've really appreciated all of our own interactions with Gary, and they never would have been possible without her.

Posthumous congrats to Gary for acceptance into the CHI Academy!


Friday, March 28, 2014

From Bill Tucker

It is with great sadness and fondness that I write this now about Gary. He was just awesome. There is no other way to describe him. I feel so lucky to have interacted with him in so many ways. He was guru, friend, supporter, co-conspirator, bouncing board, laugh and smile machine and co-empathiser. I'm not sure what I did for him, other than run with whatever he threw my way, which was a lot. He was always there for me, and I hope that the reverse was true. As we worked together more closely last year, I saw more parallels, personal and professional, and that made his passing that much more tragic.

So, my history with Gary began when I started the PhD at UCT with Edwin back around 2001. Gary was a part of the CVC lab (collaborative visual computing) and I'm trying to remember why I roped him in as co-super. I think it was his budding interest in ICT for development, and the mobile stuff, too. He would come to the meetings with and the like, and be busy beavering away with his latest handheld or Apple device. I knew he was still with us, though, because his greatest skill as an academic was the ability to chime in with precise surgical input at the most crucial times. For example, with my thesis, he read it fast and made minimal suggestions that shaped the argument just so. I still remember us looking at the whiteboard results of one of these large multi-group meetings and he pointed out that my thesis was staring me in the face. Gary also set me up with supreme collaborators: Murray for the wifi, and Nic for the ethno. We co-super'd Andrew's M before he upgraded, and had some stumbling blocks that were quickly overcome. All this is work-related, because hey, that's where our relationship originated. Then there was music, wine, coffee, hanging with him and Gil at Dave and Ilda's wedding, the kids. Oh, I'll always remember the advice he gave me when Jedd was coming along, something like there are no words to describe what is about to happen to you. You have no idea! I pass that on regularly.

The funny thing is that Gary was younger than me, yet he'd already done and inspired so much. He was so unassuming, and one could easily misinterpret that as arrogance. It wasn't. He was as genuine as it gets. I think he knew how much he did for us. He was just so happy to see us do it. It was always win-win with Gary.

So many parallels - two foreigners in Cape Town, married to white Africans, for so many years, wanting to supervise ourselves out of a job. Believing in Africa. I don't know how to fully convey my appreciation and respect for you, Gary. I really miss you, and I'm really glad we got to hang together for so long, and do so much together. It was really, really cool.

Monday, January 27, 2014

From Jenny Kirsten

My teenage son and I happened to be at Glencairn beach the day Gary passed away. I realise in hindsight this wasn’t a ‘chance’ happening. Sometimes in life, one experiences events and people that touch you and change you on a soul-level forever. This was one of those times.

We were sitting on the beach very close to where the Marsden family were. We did not know the family at all at that stage. While my son was swimming, I noticed Gil and her dad in the sea - they were boogie-boarding like a pair of happy teenagers. Gil even did handstands in the water, and I remember thinking how beautiful it was to see people having such fun. At one point, Gil’s dad was helping her mum stand in the shallows with her walking aid, and I could see something special about these people. When Gil and her dad had finished their boogie-boarding, Gil’s mum was taking photos of them in the shallow surf, and then Gary joined in taking photos too. It was simply lovely to see a family like this.

Not long after that, Gary experienced his tragic heart attack on the beach. The events were a blur for everyone, but I want to highlight what was so incredibly amazing during that time, and how the right people were there at the right time for Gary, Gil and their family. I hope that in some way this helps everyone to know that Gary received the most incredible care, and that everything that could possibly have been done to save him, was in fact done.

The things that stood out for me:

The family called out for help, and within moments three men appeared from different directions, and started CPR on Gary. One of these was a young off-duty lifeguard (who happened to be sitting nearby), and he knew exactly what to do. The other men did too. They administered CPR unceasingly and valiantly until the medics arrived, and continued to assist the medical team thereafter. I have never seen such commitment from a group of ‘strangers’ and such determination to save a life. These guys were unbelievable. They would not give up.

Two ambulances came, plus another medical team, and an off-duty medic from Cape Medical Rescue arrived. Every individual gave 100%. The off-duty medic was exceptional in taking charge of the situation, and he calmly and professionally coordinated the efforts to try save Gary. They tried everything medically and humanly possible, under that umbrella.

Gil was the most unbelievable pillar of strength throughout everything. She remained calm and courageous, and she prayed. She even stood holding Gary’s drip at one stage. I have never witnessed such faith and courage in such a traumatic situation in my life. She is such a beautiful soul, and we so wanted things to turn out differently for her and the children.

Despite their deep shock at what was unfolding, Gil’s parents huddled together with her, and they prayed together.  The grandmother of the lifeguard who was helping with the CPR, took me aside and put her arms around me and said: ‘Come, let us pray together.’

Other folks on the beach stood back respectfully, but lovingly enquired if there was progress. There was such concern on that beach.

The whole team working on the rescue continued their efforts non-stop for over an hour… It was hot and humid, and the physical demands of performing extended CPR must have been exhausting. Yet there was such commitment to saving this special life.

When the young medic approached Gil with the very difficult task of telling her that they had done all they could, he did so with such gentleness and compassion. Gil could not have had a kinder person helping her. He introduced himself, he called her “ma’am” and even apologised to Gil for being dressed in casual clothes as he was off-duty, bless him. He said they would try for another few minutes - they in fact continued for yet a further 10 minutes. They were phenomenal.

Once the rescue efforts had been concluded, Gil gathered the entire rescue team, and those of us who were supporting her, into a large circle on the beach. Everyone linked arms and Gil bravely proceeded to thank everyone for what they had done for her husband. She looked directly at us all and asked that God’s blessing and peace be with us, and that if anyone was struggling to understand what had happened, that God would help them through it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the whole circle.

This desperately sad day was also one characterised by the most moving display of human goodness. Gil even said that there were so many angels on the beach when they were needed.

Her closing words to me as we hugged and said goodbye, were: “May God’s peace come into you and always be with you.” You gave me God’s peace that day, Gil, and it is still with me. Bless you and your family, and bless the memory of Gary.

Looking for more photos

I have posted some more photos, many from the Internet and some from his Facebook page.  PLEASE, if you have any photos, PLEASE send them to me so I can post them!  We need them for a project.

It's been such a heartbreaking time, both literally and figuratively.  Hoping all of your hearts are mending...  It's a very slow and very hard process IMHO.  So sending all hugs too...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From the Alliance for Affordable Internet team

We were very sad to hear of Gary Marsden’s passing and send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at UCT. We worked closely with Gary in planning our events during the ICTD conference and his help was invaluable. He was such a warm and kind host and really made us feel welcome and supported in Cape Town. 

It is amazing to see all of the fond memories that people had of him and know that we have lost a great researcher, leader and inspiration in the ICT for development community. 

We will keep his family in our thoughts at this difficult time. 

The Alliance for Affordable Internet team