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Remembering Professor Emeritus John Dunmore

Professor Dunmore, CNZM, was appointed as Foundation Lecturer in French at Massey University in 1961 where he remained until his retirement. During his time with Massey, he was Head of the Department of Modern Languages and held the position of Dean of Humanities from 1968 to 1981.

Professor Dunmore played a pivotal role in the implementation and promotion of French as an academic subject both at Massey University and within Aotearoa New Zealand. Throughout the years, he ensured the development of the French programme which reached 300-level in 1966. He was dedicated to the ongoing evolution of the French curriculum, ensuring that it corresponded to new directions in the discipline, such as cinema and Francophone studies, while also reflecting different teaching expertise and interests.

Under Professor Dunmore’s tenure, the first New Zealand Inter-university French Seminar was organised and held at Massey in 1969. As a devoted scholar, Professor Dunmore endeavoured to broaden and deepen contacts with Alliance Française, at both regional and national levels, as well as with a number of overseas institutions. He was also the founder of the New Zealand Journal of French Studies, which ran twice yearly from 1980 to 2020.

From 1969, he began a distinguished publishing career working from the journals of French explorers in the Pacific, completing his final work in 2006. Among these studies were biographies of Bougainville, Pérouse, Du Serville and Baret. He published 30 books in his lifetime, including a guide on how to succeed as an extramural student, a murder story set in Tahiti, a biography of Norman Kirk and a book of recipes used by mariners in distant seas.

For this work, he gained an international reputation and was honoured in both New Zealand and France.

Professor Dunmore established the Dunmore Press in 1969, which for over 25 years provided a significant outlet for a wide range of academic studies, many from Massey staff.

In 1993, Professor Dunmore was the recipient of the Massey Medal for his significant contribution to the development of the university. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Letters in 2006.

Professor Dunmore was instrumental in establishing the Alliance Française network in New Zealand. He helped set up several Alliances Françaises and the Federation des Alliances Françaises de Nouvelle-Zélande Incorporated. He was the creator of the John Dunmore Medal, which honoured outstanding New Zealand contributions to knowledge of the French people and the French language in world culture, particularly in the Pacific region. It marks a long French presence in this part of the world, currently maintained and extended in teaching, learning, research and translation, as well as literary and cultural exchanges. The Medal enhances the prominence and value of knowledge of the French language and France in New Zealand, and of the wide Francophone world, inspiring new efforts and helping create solidarity among scholars. In doing so it ensures that Professor Dunmore’s generous initiative and legacy lives on. The John Dunmore Medal is still administered by the Federation des Alliances Françaises de Nouvelle-Zélande Incorporated. 

In his 99 years, Professor Dunmore retained a vital interest in university life and in scholarship. He was a strong advocate for the importance of language learning in schools and at tertiary level and is remembered as a witty and erudite professor who charmed students and colleagues.

On behalf of Alliance Française Palmerston North, Isabelle Poff-Pencole expressed her condolences to Professor Dunmore’s family and those who knew him.

“Professor Dunmore will be remembered by his Alliance Française colleagues and friends for his leadership in the teaching of the French language, his many contributions to research of the history of the French in the Pacific region and his sustained commitment to the Alliance Française in New Zealand.”

A requiem mass was held for Professor Dunmore at Our Lady of Kapiti, 1 Presentation Way, Paraparaumu on Friday 5 May.

John Dunmore Obituary