FIND a pigeonhole and stick Graeme Ennor in it ... you've got to be joking.

This is a man on whom many labels can be hung. He's something of an academic (he taught for years), has been a bit of an adventurer, isn't particularly good at making money but is an excellent manager, the Mokoia Community Association (MCA) was his baby.

The thought of older people's brains atrophying horrifies him. He was instrumental in setting up, and currently chairs, the 300-plus member U3A - University of the 3rd Age and, at a time the very word Islam sends shudders down spines worldwide, he's a dedicated student of it.

A former "dead spot" in his garden's based on the gardens of the Mughal Empire, incorporating most of the main Persian principles. Water flows four ways, olive, fig and pomegranate trees flourish but the usual date palm's missing. The Ennors "make do" with their neighbour's cabbage trees.


It's his thinking place. Graeme Ennor's a thinking kinda guy, however he hasn't always been as academically-focused as he now is.

He failed his first shot at University Entrance and is grateful "because it took me a full year to become competent in all the bits I did know and learn all the bits I didn't".

With his mind lodged in the right learning space, he secured an MA in political studies, passing with second degree honours. He "wasn't good enough to get first class honours", another Graeme Ennor attribute's his candid self-assessment.
He moved into teaching.

After three years at Selwyn College, he and the deputy principal had what he politely calls "an opinion difference". The timing was perfect. "An American on the staff was returning home on a 51-foot trimaran, I'd never been on a yacht before but offered help crew it."
Initially, Graeme intended to disembark in Japan but only got as far as Vanuatu.
"I quickly learned sailing's 95 per cent boredom, 5 per cent sheer terror, the trip was well before safety devices, we launched into the tail-end of a storm, on my first watch we were surfing down huge waves with a 20 knot wind behind us, the steering broke, three days later the engine failed ... we did a lot of drinking."

By Vila, Graeme decided a seafarer's life wasn't for him but his homecoming wasn't plain sailing either. "It was at the time of the Mr Asia drug runners, Customs gave this very bedraggled-looking, bearded fellow a very hard time."

Later OE was much more conventional, spending time in the US, UK and Europe.
Returning home, he tried his hand at management consultancy. "It involved cold calling, that wasn't me at all."

In 1984, he and his first wife spent a year as VSA workers in Samoa, Graeme lecturing at the secondary teachers' college.

Pukekohe High was his next posting. By then he'd developed an interest in the emerging audio visual world - it followed that he taught it.

Western Heights High's need for a teacher/librarian drew him to Rotorua.

"I got interested in the gifted kids, set up the Wero programme, introduced the CoRT thinking skills programme, rare then, standard now. I think it's terribly important kids understand the way the brain functions, to me it's the basic tool of learning."

Others didn't share his enthusiasm. "When I was leaving someone said he was glad I was going, that he didn't have time to teach kids to think."

A career as a Health and Safety consultant attracted him. "I was told there was a lot of money in it - there wasn't."

After a spell at Opotiki College "teaching a crazy range of things from home room to computers", it was, he decreed, time to work towards his PhD, focusing on education.
"I soon discovered studying alone's a very lonely experience so I had this idea of delivering intellectual stimulation to older people, Rotorua had no adult education classes, no U3A."

Graeme's active mind conceived the Active Minds Programme, running courses at RAVE and taking them into retirement villages. "I was bringing people in to provide a wider view of the world covering everything from poetry to world history, that's where my interest in Islam came in, I work on the principle the best way to learn a subject is teach it."
Popular as his classes were, they became another Ennor brainwave that flagged financially. "I felt guilty asking these people for money."

By then he'd remarried - to Mary Carpenter. "She's the figures person that I'm not." They'd met through the District Choir. A fellow member told Graeme MCA was looking for a manager, he was a shoe-in.

"It was the first time in my life I'd said 'I'd like to do this, this and this' and someone else turned up with the funding."

A wide range of programmes, parenting classes, U3A and the Men's Shed included, sprang from Graeme's ideas-focused mind.

All was right with his world when bowel cancer intervened. Chemo bruised his duodenum. "I was literally starving to death, lost 30kg. For seven weeks I was hooked up to breakfast 20 hours day, coming out right on Christmas with a diet sheet saying 'pastry, cream, wine good, butter fine', I had a wonderful Christmas."

He's about to return to Waikato Hospital to have a liver growth removed but insists he's "rarin' to go" whatever the outcome.

"Finding out intrigues me so I've a lot of finding out ahead of me."

Born: New Plymouth, 1948

Education: Primary and secondary in home town, Auckland University and Teachers' College

Family: Wife Mary, son and daughter, "four bonus children, two bonus grandchildren".

Interests: Family, education, thinking, gardening, reading "historical detective fiction, history books are great but don't tell you how they did the dishes, how people
entertained themselves on wet Sunday afternoons".

On Isis: "A hodge-podge of different tribes, to me the big bogey's the forced collapse of the Ottoman Empire by the English and French in 1915."

On U3A: "I'm tickled silly by its success."

Personal philosophy: "If not me, who? If not now, when?"