November 18, 2016

Farewell Dr Irwin

Dr Derek Irwin, Head of School of English, was celebrated with an evening of performances at the Drama Studio last Thursday as he bids UNMC goodbye to further his research at the Ningbo campus.

UNMC’s Performing Arts Platform held an open stage farewell performance, themed ‘Departure’, featuring choral numbers, orchestral pieces, poetry recitals, video screenings and an improv play, among others, on its roster. This was a touching tribute to Dr Irwin as one of the pioneers who established UNMC’s performing arts scene, especially in theatre.

As a theatre major in his undergrad years, his love for the theatre has always shone through. Having performed in Mikado and Arabian Nights in addition to directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (MND), he has provided a platform and inspired budding actors to take to the stage. Actor Michelle Beth said:

“He is very fun and inspiring; he always reminds us that a play is called a play for a reason. We can see that he brought this element of fun into theatre. He makes you look forward to more than just memorising and practising your lines, and coming for drama practices.”

Michelle and other cast members of MND parodied Dr Irwin’s adaptation in an improv performance titled A Midsummer’s Nightmare. It involved Dr Irwin comically playing the role of Thisbe, which earned roars of laughter and enraptured applause from the audience. He then delivered a hilarious stand-up comedy monologue on his childhood memories of Canada and its distinct culture.

Other highlights of the evening included a choral performance of ‘Let the River Run’, a Chinese orchestral performance of classical Chinese compositions and a spoken word presentation by Sheena Baharudin.

In addition to his theatre work, Dr Irwin established the School of English (SoE) in UNMC over three years ago, consequently making English with Creative Writing degrees at Bachelor’s and Master’s level available in Malaysia.

“I’m very, very pleased with what I’ve done on this campus. I think that particularly the School of English and our main activities are amazing, especially this year. We have an amazing school, we have a really great group of people working here, so I’m really sad to leave. I really like UNMC.”

Assistant Professor in the SoE, Dr Shivani Sivagurunathan, shared her experience working with him.

“I think he’s not only talented but incredibly kind, compassionate and very available to his colleagues and to the students, so there’s just a lot of admiration from me to him.

“Also, on a personal level, when I first started here, it was my second job and I very much liked him as a boss because he was very fair, very egalitarian, and very understanding.”

Going to Ningbo, Dr Irwin hopes to develop the artistic movement there, continue studying Chinese and have time to complete and publish the research that he had worked on in Malaysia.

While Dr Irwin will now be based in Ningbo, he will maintain links with UNMC as he is supervising the PhD students and returns next semester to conduct modules.

IGNITE wishes Dr Irwin all the best on his paper and happy teaching in Ningbo!

Click here  to view more photos from the event.

Photography by Malik Hisyam and Shalyn Izura, write-up by Suanne Tan and Jonathan Sim.