A Human Engineer
Early each Sunday morning, a tall, white-haired man steps into the Dunster House Common Room to wind the grandfather's clock in the corner. "No one else wants to do it," smiles Gordon M. Fair, the Master of Dunster, "so being an engineer, I've taken over the task myself." Assuming this chore is characteristic of Fair's universal interest in Dunster and its activities. Stressing his confidence in the undergraduate, Fair encourages a liberal House policy and was one of the first Masters to urge extended parietal rules.
An imposingly dignified man, Fair combines an innate reserve with a penchant for individualism. The result is a Master who can chug-a-lug beer or lead cheers at House smokers and yet command friendly respect in less exuberant moments.
This composite of informality and propriety stems from Fair's cosmopolitan background. Born in South Africa 59 years ago, he was educated in Germany until growing nationalism and restraints became oppressive. Two weeks before the beginning of World War I, Fair left Berlin, arriving in Cambridge to study sanitary engineering at M.I.T. After graduate work at Harvard, he received a faculty appointment in 1927. In the following twenty years, Fair became Dean of the Engineering School and one of the top sanitary engineers in the world.
Fair was chosen Master of Dunster in 1948, and a year later the School of Engineering merged with the College. In both instances, these transitions from technology to liberal arts took some adjustment. Undergraduates, whom Fair had not taught for over a decade, now surrounded him with their problems. Part of his success in developing a College viewpoint is due to his interest in this new job and part to his two teen-age sons, one now at Lowell House, the other Exeter.
His engineering colleagues besom Fair's plunge into College life as a scientific loss. "Since he became 'Mr. Chips' over at Harvard," one former associate complains, "we never see him at our monthly meetings." But Fair has not given up his pre-Dunster occupation; he hopes to have his fourth book, water and Waste Water, ready for publication shortly and in 1950, Fair was the official U.S. representative a meeting of sanitary engineers in Rome.
"Despite his engineering background," a Dunster tutor observes, "Fair is one of the most humanistic of the Housemaster." His conversation roams freely from music to current events. During Far's last trip to South Africa in 1927, the race conflict which now splits the country was threatening. Restoring peace, to Fair, is a matter of practicality. "The enemies will have to recognize that they must live together The native is as much a citizen of the Union as the white; he should not be segregated in towns or forced on reservations."
Fair, who met his wife while both were studying the violin in Germany, is especially fond of classical music. "Brahms is my favorite composer," he chuckles, "but that date me."
Now, after five year's at Dunster, Fair concludes, "I want to achieve in the House that famed community of scholars'--some budding, some tilting, some in full bloom."