Dr. David Gurney

David Gurney, a life-long teacher and teacher educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. His father passed when David was just seven years old. His family was split between two households during the financially straining 1930’s depression. While David was in elementary school, by being hit, at different times, by automobiles. This provided an opportunity to devote time to reading, which became a lifelong passion. His attention to the written word was enhanced by given the opportunity to correct spelling tests in fourth grade by his favorite teacher, Mrs. Puckett.

Introduction to Music
David began a lifelong love of and participation in music with encouragement by his mother. She was able to have him participate with an adult choir with a well-known director. He continued singing in school choirs, madrigal groups, and the church choir. While in high school, David also performed in a local minstrel show as a featured solo performer between acts. He also selected music for, and participated regularly, in a teen-age dance club. This provided the confidence to perform throughout his life.

Foreign Languages
It was in high school that David’s love of, and proficiency in, foreign language began. He cited many excellent teachers who involved him first in French and Spanish. This experience shaped his first major in college at the University of Virginia. Lack of finances brought him home after two years and he enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. David was assigned to the Army Language School where he became fluent in Russian. He used that language in the service to monitor Soviet tank movements in East Germany. After the war, and with the assistance of the GI Bill, David was able to return to college and major in Foreign Affairs with a concentration on the Soviet Union. He earned a bachelor’s degree in the Woodrow Wilson School of Foreign Affairs in 1959.

Teaching Career
After graduation, David began his teaching career as a Spanish teacher at Virginia Beach High School. He later became a graduate instructor at Florida State University. It was at FSU that he began a long career facilitating students’ new language acquisition. He went on to earn Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Foreign Language Education.

Dr. Gurney developed an innovative professional program as an educator at Florida Technical University, now the University of Central Florida. In this role, he also served in the state language teachers association, as president and Executive Secretary. In 2005, he was elected Board Member Emeritus in recognition of his teaching, leadership, and contributions to state and national conferences.

Dr. Gurney's dedication to early language learning attracted the attention of the YMCA and led to his developing materials, in five languages, for Kinder Kamps. During this phase of his career, he edited a publication by the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, and annual reports for the UCF College of Education. At the state level, he shared in the development of a training workshop for ESOL tutors.

Music & Poetry
Dr. Gurney performed in many opera productions by the Orlando Opera Company. He also sang with the famed Bach Festival of Winter Park Choir, which included two performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He performed with a well-received community arts organization in several Broadway-style productions. His participation in this wide variety of music infused another language interest, writing poetry. He has written poems about the roles of over 300 artists across several music genres. His repertoire includes commemorative poems about family, colleagues, national and international personalities.

Cultural Interaction
A particularly personal and professional interest was “advancing cultural interaction and collaboration among people of other cultures”. Dr. Gurney created a program for the Mid-Florida Council for International Visitors. Participants from different countries discussed issues of development in their separate countries that, in reality, are often common to each. He created a similar program for such interactions at UCF and encouraged administrators to adopt the program.

Missing Children
Later in his career, Dr. Gurney created a plan for students of foreign languages to identify missing children in their classrooms. They would introduce these children using the language they are studying. He called the program, “Adopt a Missing Child”.

Thank you for investing time to read about Dr. Gurney, who passed in 2024. He was, and continues to be, an investor in education and teacher education.