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Vale Jack Rice

by Humphrey McQueen and Peter Curtis

The following tribute was read at Jack Rice’s memorial on Wednesday, 17 May.

Jack Rice, 1968 to 2023.

Jack Rice – a man of many parts.

Family, friends, comrades, colleagues.

Student, scholar, protestor, pianist.

For more than a decade, Peter Curtis and I have had the pleasure of being welcomed into those social practices.

From the start, we saw how broad were Jack’s sympathies and how deep ran his engagement with them.

Adelaideans who were with him day-in and day-out will fill in that canvas today. My contribution will be to spotlight how his character enriched the qualities of his mind and those of all who knew him.

Late in April, I sent Jack a 10-page letter traversing several of the subjects that had kept us up late into night when we stayed with him and Jenny.

Opera transmissions – Lohengrin – film retrospective, Akira.

Should we set up a zoom group to make a start on Hegel’s 840-page Science of Logic – which stimulated Marx’s Capital and Lenin’s Imperialism?

Allan Turing’s ‘test’ and the current concerns about AI. Would Jack agree that all intelligence is ‘artificial’ in the sense of being acquired on an innate capacity?

Since Jack’s death I have come upon a chapter about Kepler’s ellipses – one of Marx’s heroes along with Prometheus and Spartacus, three exemplars of courage.

We shall keep stumbling upon writings to spark wonderings about how Jack ‘s response would have illumined ours.

That Jack had catholic tastes and universal interests did not distinguish him from any number of our friends.

Rather, it was that he engaged with ideas with a forever inquiring amiability.

This quality ensured the success of the Capital reading groups, opening up responses, never sounding like a catechism.

When Jack did me the honour of being a referee for his doctoral researches, I was able to spell out what we all knew about him.

First, his sixteen-page proposal had a richer content of fresh insights from firm experiences than many a published doctoral thesis.

Secondly, he already had earned a doctorate – not just an honorary one – for all he had achieved at TAFE with English as another language.

Thirty years of tormenting undocumented refugees for no purpose other than to win votes made many of us feel like refugees in our own country.

As a guest speaker at those classes, and from talking with students and other staff, I saw how Jack made refugees sense that Australia is a luckier country for their arrival.

As it will remain for Jack’s presence in our lives and imaginaries.


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