Richard LeRoy Gunn: A man of influence

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Richard LeRoy Gunn, BYU graduate and art history professor, traveled the world and taught about incalculable cultures to countless students. The 94-year-old taught at BYU for 34 years and passed away peacefully March 28.

Gunn was born in Salt Lake City on Septmeber 28,1918. While serving a mission in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor was attacked, which led him to enlist in the Army when he returned home.

Richard Gunn (Photo courtesy Gunn family)
Richard Gunn (Photo courtesy Gunn family)

After seeing his military group struggle through memorizing the parts of a gun, Gunn drew his own weapon and labeled each part. His drawing was very intricate and he was successful in helping others in the group learn the parts. When one of his leaders realized what he had done, he was promoted to the mapping unit.

Jeffrey Geddes, a pre-management student and Gunn’s grandson, says he remembers his grandfather for teaching the family about always going the extra mile.

“Grandpa had many experiences and told many stories,” Geddes said. “There are more details, but the purpose of the story was to encourage others to go the second mile, as told in the Bible, ‘And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him twain.'”

Gunn was recognized as Professor of the Year during 1972 due to the impact he had on his students. He took everything as a learning experience, even in the hardest of times.

“I think he believed everything in life was a learning opportunity,” Geddes said. “One time he told me that it took him going blind to realize how many steps it was from the back door to the living room.”

Gunn was also a Cougar at heart. He attended BYU sport events even after losing his sight. His family scheduled his funeral so it wouldn’t coincide with a BYU basketball game because he would miss his own funeral for a BYU game.

Christian Hansen, another one of Gunn’s grandsons, says BYU was incredibly important for his grandfather.

“BYU was singlehandedly the most important thing to him,” Hansen said. “He felt the ‘Y’ was a remarkable institution and he strived to represent the Church in the best way as he traveled across the world. He saw BYU as a place where lives were changed and where people could raise to higher levels in all aspects of their lives.”

Gunn was a man of great influence for his family and many people he came in contact with.

“He taught Elder Oaks at the Brigham Young High School,” Hansen said.

A few years back, at a class reunion, Elder Oaks pushed Gunn in a wheelchair. Someone said to him ‘Elder Oaks, you know he is blind,” Elder Oaks responded, ‘He isn’t blind, he sees in a different way.'”

“That sums up Grandpa Gunn up pretty well,” Hansen said. “He saw dimensions and perspectives of things in a way that no one else could. He elevated your thoughts.”

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