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Gregory G. Maskarinec ’74

June 16, 2022, in Honolulu, Hawaii, from cancer.

Having proved to be a constant antagonist to his teachers, Gregory graduated from high school in Idaho Falls on the condition that he not attend classes. In 1969, he began at Reed, where he met many an intellectual match and made lifelong friends, including Prof. Joe Roberts [math 1952–2014]. Gregory fondly recalled drinking the products of Roberts’s home brewery.

Gregory took a year off from Reed to study the art of hand lettering at Trinity College, Dublin. Copying from the Book of Kells, he calligraphed Joe Robert’s 375-page textbook Elementary Number Theory as well as his own thesis. He enjoyed running the Reed film club with showings in the chapel, evenings of dumpster diving, working summers in National Forest Service watchtowers, and trips to the Oregon coast. He wrote his thesis, “A Categorical Topiary,” advised by Prof. John Leadley [math 1956–93], and from Reed he took with him a profound love for poetry, correct punctuation, and a well-drawn line.

At the urging of other Reedies, who awakened in him a fascination for Nepal, he joined the Peace Corps after graduation. He spent seven years there, first teaching mathematics to high school students in the extremely rural and destitute district of Jajarkot in western Nepal, and then collecting oral shamanic texts as part of a burgeoning ethnographic interest in traditional cultures that he witnessed disappearing throughout the ’70s and ’80s. These collected texts became the material both for his PhD at the University of Hawaii in anthropology, which was published as his first book, The Rulings of the Night: An Ethnography of Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), and for two volumes of transcripts with meticulous, rhythmic translations: Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts I (Harvard University Press, 1999) and Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts II: Texts of the Bhuji Valley (Harvard University Press, 2009). On the recommendation of the Nepal Royal Academy, Gregory’s work on Nepal was honored with the Birendra Pragyalankar by the late king of Nepal, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, and with a Vidhyadhari, an honorary degree of Sanskritic scholarship, awarded by the late Yogi Naraharinath. In 2016, Gregory was given the National Honor Award by the Nepal literary organization Nepal Sahitya in recognition of his lifetime commitment to Nepali language and literature. His scholarly work in Nepal led to many invitations, collaborations, and extended visits with colleagues at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, where all his recordings of shamanic recitals are archived.

Later in life, Gregory became a professor of medicine in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and the Department of Native Hawaiian Health and, in 2018, director of Global Health and International Medicine at the John A. Burns Medical School of the University of Hawaii. There he was known for his unfailing insistence that health care is a human right, a truth he believed should be at the heart of all medical training. In these years, his research interests expanded to questions of culture and health among native Hawaiians and the population of the Micronesian islands, especially the Marshall Islands, Chuuk, Yap, and Palau, while he also continued his work in Nepal. The love of travel that had initially taken him to Nepal persisted until the very end of his life, taking him throughout the Pacific, Europe, and Asia.

Gregory is remembered by colleagues, students, friends, and family for his extraordinary mind, his capacious reading habits, his generous mentoring, his dedication to social justice in Nepal and in Hawaii, and his ever-present wit and joy. He is survived by his wife, Gertraud Maskarinec, and daughters Malika Maskarinec ’05 and Maya, his sister Karen Maskarinec ’74, and nephew Luke Gabriel Jilka Maskarinec ’18.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2023

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