Late WSU professor John Richard Gorham lived and breathed Cougar. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, have their names on a plaque on the Walk of Fame in downtown Pullman. For the majority of their 69 years in Pullman, John and Mary Ellen attended every WSU football and basketball game.
John died on Oct. 14, but the impact he made on WSU and the Pullman community persists.
David J. Prieur, the chair of the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, began working with Gorham in 1967 and remembers how energetic he was about his work.
“You had to run to stay ahead,” Prieur said. “He was always thinking about next things to do. He was a lot of fun to work with because he was so enthusiastic.”
Don Knowles, an
associate professor in veterinary microbiology and pathology, took over Gorham’s position as director of a research lab for the U.S. Department of Agriculture when he retired in 1995. Knowles’ was a graduate student of Gorham’s, and said it was Gorham who inspired him to stay at WSU.
“He genuinely just loved what he did,” Knowles said. “His passion was to improve animal health. If you were interested in that at all, it couldn’t help but rub off on you.”
Mary Ellen said her husband’s enthusiasm inspired many of his students.
“He especially enjoyed younger people – students,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they credit success in their careers to his help.”
Gorham also encouraged his two children, Jay and Katherine, in their careers.
“In his own quiet, unassuming way, my father showed my brother Jay and me the value of finding our way in life as he had done by being positive, persistent and working hard at the things we love to do,” Katherine said. “We are so
fortunate for this gift he gave us.”
Katherine said that although her father was given many awards in his career, what she remembers about him was his humility.
“I have always admired the way my father was quick to credit his co-workers for the work he did with them, saying that a new discovery was as much about the bright people around him as it was about him,” Katherine said.
Mary Ellen also remembers her husband for his cheerful spirit.
“He was extremely humorous and loved a good time,” she said. “He was always happy. He never got mad. His philosophy was to work things out in a calm way, and it seemed to always work for him.”
Knowles said Gorham was constantly giving to those around him.
“He always said he had the greatest job that there was and appreciated that job, and he wanted to give back,” Knowles said. “Nobody fills his shoes. He’s just a special guy.”