Shaw Nicholas Gynan
1954 - 2020
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Shaw Nicholas Gynan
May 29, 1954 - October 28, 2020
Bellingham, Washington - After a long illness Dr. Shaw Gynan, emeritus professor at Western Washington University, succumbed to cancer on October 28, 2020 at the age of 66. He is survived by his husband Jeffrey Paster of Bellingham, mother Elizabeth Farfard in Brooks, ME, sister Stephanie Caverno and nephew Shawn Herlihy in East Hampstead, NH and adopted son Ernesto Lopez of Paraguay. He is predeceased by his beloved niece Catherine E. McDonough in Kittery, ME.
Dr. Gynan was born in Rockland, Maine on May 29, 1954. He earned an AA from Bradford College, Havervill, Mass.1974, BA from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.1976, MA from the University of Texas at El Paso 1978 and a PhD from the University of Texas in Austin, 1983 in Ibero-Romance Philology and Linguistics. After serving three years as Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Gynan joined the faculty of WWU in 1986 and retired as Professor Emeritus in Linguistics and Spanish in 2018. Dr. Gynan was fluent in five languages and taught courses in linguistics, phonetics, Spanish language and foreign language methodology. He often taught graduate courses in the summer in Mexico and Paraguay. He was an outstanding teacher and researcher with awards in both areas. His academic accomplishments include authoring several books and dozens of articles written in English, Spanish and Guareni in the areas of Spanish, language acquisition, bilingualism, foreign language methodology, linguistics, phonetics and sociolinguistics. He presented academic papers at scores of professional regional, national and international conferences.
Dr. Gynan has been considered a leading authority by the Ministry of Education in Paraguay for his work in preserving indigenous languages and his contributions to bilingual education. He has been heralded by leaders in education for his contribution to the advancement of education and for conducting scores of workshops in the methodology of language teaching to foster the regeneration of the indigenous languages of Paraguay. Many of his language workshops were given in remote villages in the jungles of Paraguay. Dr. Gynan was the recipient of two Fulbright fellowships for the advancement of his international work and received numerous governmental grants by the Ministry of Education in Paraguay. He was further distinguished in being appointed as their expert foreign consultant in bilingualism. The majority of his summers and leaves from WWU in the last 20 years were spent in Paraguay doing research, giving educational workshops and presenting numerous professional papers to teachers and language officials.
Dr. Gynan continued his research in his retirement and just last month completed a quadralingual dictionary in English, Spanish, Guarani and Guana with an accompanying foreign language methodology book written entirely in Guarani. These works were commissioned by the Ministry of Education in Paraguay and are now pending publication.
Dr. Gynan will be dearly missed by his family, colleagues and his many friends. His contributions to the advancement of language preservation in Paraguay has been among his most significant. The potential of his future contributions to education will be sorely missed.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Modern Languages Department at WWU and Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Bellingham Herald on Nov. 8, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
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January 16, 2021
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Anna Adeola Makanju
November 22, 2020
I met Shaw at WWU. I spoke with him many times in his office. He was always charming, witty, and fun.
He was my friend. It is sad to lose a friend, particularly at my age, so young. May we all rest in peace.
Lyle Pearson
November 21, 2020
I ‘met’ Shaw while playing a favorite online word game. We shared many thoughts - about his illness, about his love for Jeffrey, his views of an afterlife, his goal in getting his last work completed. A brilliant man, he will remain ‘my favorite academic’ as I used to get him in our conversations. The one question that always remained unanswered in his mind has now been answered. Blessings and peace to you, my ‘Friend’.....
Doro B
November 20, 2020
Shaw was a long.-time friend and neighbor...he and I rode our bicycles together to work rain, shine or snow for many years. We even took some family holidays together. My dogs and I will miss him daily....
Maureen O'Reilly
November 17, 2020
what a wonderful, kind, and giving person. He will be missed by so many.
candice cuddington
November 12, 2020
Dr. Gynan taught phonetics when I was at Western in the late 1990s. He made a challenging subject approachable and fun and I appreciated his liveliness during a 7 am class! It is because of him that I will never forget the official name of an ear, nose and throat doctor, in both Spanish and English. My thoughts are with his family. He was a lovely man.
Camille Gatza
November 6, 2020
He was a wonderful person and the world will miss him. I will miss him. My heart goes out to Stephanie, Jeff, Shawn and all the many people who’s lives he enriched.
Barb Patchin
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