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Gerald Clifford.

Photo courtesy of Lester Devine.

Clifford, Gerald Francis (1927–2012)

By Lester Devine


Originally trained as a secondary history teacher, a career long Adventist educator, Lester Devine, Ed.D., has taught at elementary, secondary and higher education levels and spent more than three decades in elected educational leadership positions in two divisions of the world Church, NAD (1969-1982) and SPD (1982-2005). He completed his forty years of denominational service with a term as director of the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale University College in Australia where his life-long hobby of learning and presenting on Adventist heritage issues became his vocation. 

First Published: July 15, 2022

Gerald Francis Clifford was a life-long educator with most of his career spent in leadership roles. An able administrator, Clifford was to have the unusual distinction of having served as the director of Education for two world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: the then-Trans-Africa Division and later the South Pacific Division.

Early Life

A British national, Gerald Francis Clifford was born in Capetown, South Africa, on June 24, 1927.1 His father, F. G. Clifford, was an Adventist evangelist, pastor, and church administrator who later in life served as president of the then-Australasian Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His mother, Edna Reedham Edmed, was well known in her younger days as a champion long-distance swimmer. While some have believed she swam the English Channel, the reality is that her longest swim was an unescorted effort off the coast of South Africa though there is some uncertainty as to the beginning and end of that event.2 Three sons were born to the marriage: Roy (1925) Gerald (1927), and Bert (1929). All three would become Adventist ministers and administrators, serving the Church with distinction in Africa and the South Pacific–Roy in treasury work, Gerald in educational leadership, and surgeon Bert in hospital leadership.3

Little is known about Gerald Clifford’s early years, but the family often moved during that time.4

Denominational Service

Gerald Clifford began his teaching career in 1946 at Bethel College in South Africa before completing his teaching training and graduating with a teaching diploma from Helderberg College, South Africa, in 1947.5 He taught for one year at the Suji Mission School in Tanzania in 1949.

Clifford married Pamela M. McCulloughon (born 1932) on January 3, 1950.6 Pam and Gerald were a great partnership. In time, the family was to be blessed with two daughters and a son--Carol, Colleen, and Dennis.7

In 1951, the Cliffords transferred to the Bugema Missionary College in Uganda. Initially, Gerald Clifford was a mathematics and science teacher, and later in 1961, he became the school principal. The Cliffords remained at Bugema until September 1966.8 One significant innovation during Clifford’s tenure at Bugema was allowing girls to attend the secondary program at Bugema for the first time. This was a large step forward toward gender equality in a place that believed girls did not need much education.

The Cliffords were allowed a double-length overseas furlough (August 1956 to August 1958) that Gerald used to complete his bachelor and master degrees at Walla Walla College in the western United States.9

After Uganda, the Cliffords continued their ministry in Kenya. Gerald Clifford was ordained to the Gospel ministry in Limuru, Kenya, on January 24, 1963.10

A passionate educator and able administrator, Gerald Clifford was appointed education director for the Trans-Africa Division, a duty he faithfully performed from September 1966 to March 1971. He also oversaw the Sabbath School work in that part of the world. From March 1971. Gerald Clifford took up a new responsibility, academic dean at the then-Australasian Missionary College (now Avondale University College) in the state of New South Wales in Australia remaining in that role until going on study leave (March 1974–July 1976) at Andrews University in the United States where he completed his Ed.D. degree.

On his return to the South Pacific in 1976, Gerald Clifford, with the retirement of Dr. Gordon McDowell, became the director of education for the now-South Pacific Division (SPD) of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As the longest-serving SPD director of education ever, Dr. Gerald Clifford remained in that role until late in 1990 when he became the assistant to the South Pacific Division president. He served in that position until his retirement in March 1996. During his time as assistant to the SPD president, Gerald Clifford developed a deep knowledge of computer databases and was particularly familiar with the FileMaker Pro Plus software package. With the new world Church leader’s (Robert S. Folkenburg)11 emphasis on Global Mission, Gerald Clifford quickly developed a software database for the accurate reporting of South Pacific Division (SPD) activity with that project, and that was very quickly adopted by the rest of the world field. Dr. Gerald Clifford then wrote additional software so that each Division report could be electronically delivered to the denominational world headquarters at Silver Spring in the United States and with a simple keystroke then seamlessly merged into the master file there. This meant those responsible around the world for maintaining and sharing these records had to be initially trained and then with the constant changes of personnel, the new hires also needed to be subsequently trained. Thus, for several years before and after his retirement, Dr. Gerald Clifford travelled extensively to provide these services.12

In retirement, Gerald Clifford remained very active. He was very involved with the planning and building of the new Fox Valley Community Church across the street from the SPD office. As part of that, all the doors had electronic key cards linked to the church office database. Each office holder was given cards to provide appropriate access to the relevant parts of the building, and those renting the hall facility would be given a card which would only work on the day and for only the agreed time. At the end of the year, all cards were cancelled and new ones issued to the new Nominating Committee-authorized office holders. Thus, security integrity of the church complex was well maintained, thanks to Gerald Clifford.

Dr. Clifford thoroughly enjoyed his work and just liked to keep busy. Like his father before him and his two brothers, he had a well-equipped wood-working shop at his home. There he made furniture and did repairs. He was also clever with repairing grandfather and mantle clock movements and both these abilities would draw people to him. When called for advice, he would often respond that he would like to have a look at the problem. When would be a good time to do that? “Now, and you can help me,” would be the response. In reality, those who found themselves in such a situation would soon find they spent more time watching than actually “helping”; although they would be allowed to hold stuff once in a while; otherwise they would be in the way of the rapid progress!

In his final retirement years, Dr. Gerald Clifford’s magnificent mind began to falter. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers’ disease. He began his long goodbye, which ended with his death in Sydney, Australia, on September 13, 2012, and he was laid to rest at the Avondale Cemetery.13


Gerald Clifford was an insightful and accomplished leader, perpetually on task, and what follows is a snapshot of some of his more notable achievements. Because many of these issues were dealt with concurrently, they are not listed here in any chronological order, but they do collectively illustrate the energy and the very considerable determination and insight of the man. For example, the Associate Treasurer of the SPD once told the school principals “that one did not understand the meaning of the word ‘tenacity’ until they had worked with Gerald Clifford.”14

Pacific Adventist College/University (PAC/PAU)

By the 1970s it was becoming increasingly apparent that the South Pacific islands needed their own degree-granting training college. Educational standards and expectations were rising in the region, and the senior training institution for the Pacific, Fulton College, either had to be greatly upgraded in its curricular offerings or replaced at a time when it was finding its secondary teacher training program increasingly unaffordable. In addressing these issues, the then-Australasian Division Treasurer, Pr. Lance Butler15 and Director of Education, Dr. Gerald Clifford developed a formidable partnership and in time a new college was established on a farm outside Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. An enormous undertaking which took close to a decade to effect, the two men worked hard to that end. Designing a campus with architecturally suitable features for tropical conditions, preparing all the necessary academic policies and procedures for a new institution, building classrooms and dormitories. In addition, construction of several villages for married students and simultaneously recruiting college staff and academic faculty are examples of the multiple challenges which were addressed and dealt with. Another example would be the setting up of the new library. For that, Brian and Daphne Townend spent two years (1981–1982) at the then-Avondale College in Australia purchasing, accessioning, and shipping 16,000 books which they later set up in the new institutional library on the PAC campus16 prior to the opening in 1984 with Dr. Ray Wilkinson, the principal, and Dr. Allen Sonter, the academic dean.

Upon completing his doctoral degree at Andrews University and becoming principal-elect of the new Pacific Union College, Dr. Wilkinson spent two months in 1978 working at the then Australasian Division (AUD) Education Office preparing for his new role. Interspersed with a couple of island relief principal secondments, Ray worked about half time for several years at the AUD and working closely with Gerald Clifford. Gerald Clifford’s earlier experience in upgrading Bugema College in Uganda and his time as academic dean at the then Australasian Missionary College (now Avondale University College) was invaluable to Dr. Wilkinson in his new and emerging leadership assignment. Thus, Gerald Clifford’s involvement in the establishment of the new institution was much more significant than simply identifying the need for a new island college and then helping select the site. In reality, he and Ray Wilkinson were involved in all aspects of the development of the new institution, including at times contesting with some who did not understand Papua New Guinea security issues and the related need for appropriate architectural design for tropical conditions. Thus Dr. Wilkinson considered working with Dr. Clifford to be a “wonderful help”.17

The Papua New Guinea government just over a decade later conferred university status on the young institution in 1997. It was not easy for Fulton College in those early years to accept the senior status of the new institution, but Gerald Clifford and career missionaries, Drs. Ray Wilkinson and Allen Sonter, who had both worked at Fulton, did much to ease the transition. In all, it was a remarkable achievement.

SPD Curriculum Development

When Gerald Clifford first became director of education for the South Pacific region, he quickly noted that the K-12 schools did not have much in the way of curriculum development support and that they were essentially teaching the state curriculum plus Bible. On one notable occasion, he was visiting a secondary school in a major city with his associate director and in reviewing the teacher programs of work documents soon noted that one such document included a six-week unit on evolution, as the government curriculum required, but that there was nothing in the document about Creation so a discussion with that teacher was inevitable. When spoken to, the Biology teacher concerned maintained that he did not need to write down his commitment to Creationism “because it oozed out of him in class,” at which point Dr. Clifford with the considerable asperity for which he was well-known on occasion suggested that he would much prefer that teacher’s enthusiasm to “ooze down on to paper thank you very much” and took steps to ensure that happened!18 Clearly, if the Church was to have effective Adventist schools, they needed to be more than the state mandated curriculum with a hedge of safety around them.

Another reality was that the Church then, generally, did not have a clear understanding of the purposes of Christian education, but considered it a useful service to that portion of the membership which wished to use it; provided that it paid its way. In essence it was the state mandated curriculum with morning worship and a daily Bible class added. Dr. Clifford was determined this mindset had to change. Thus, it was a real wake-up call to the teaching ministry in Australia and New Zealand when in the 1980s he organized for Dr. George Akers (General Conference director of education) to lead out in two workshops where he introduced the concept of Integration of Faith and Learning. The first was for K-12 principals and the second was for college educators. The first of these generated considerable enthusiasm, though muted somewhat when Dr. Akers was asked for the specifics of how to actually apply these concepts in the classroom, and his response was that it had been many years since he had worked in a K-12 classroom setting so the teachers would have to work that out for themselves! But, Gerald Clifford continued the discussion in the months and years following those workshops, and his expansion of the original Akers mantra into The Integration of the Teacher’s Faith with the Students’ Learning made the direction to be taken more easily understood.19 This interest in the philosophy of Adventist education was life-long, something Dr. Humberto Rasi, the then-world leader of Adventist education, recognized, using Dr. Clifford as a presenter at a faith and learning workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in March of 1990.20

Dr. Clifford was well aware of the North American Division Bible program developed in the late 1960s, field tested and then printed in the early 1970s. Too expensive for the rest of the world to use, he obtained General Conference funding in the late 1980s to develop an abridged international version of that curriculum; one which would eliminate any uniquely American cultural aspects, (spelling etc.,) and modernize it with the best and most recent information available. Accordingly, Dr. Trevor Lloyd took on the task beginning in 1987 located initially at the trans-Tasman Union Conference office before moving the next year to the South Pacific Division and continuing over four years or so until the final product was printed by the Australian Signs Publishing Company and made available worldwide. Dr. Lloyd had been the head of teacher training at Avondale College and had a strong background in curriculum issues. While the International Bible Curriculum was commonly used in Australian and New Zealand Schools, customs duties in developing countries made it still too expensive for Adventist schools in most parts of the world.21

Another “down-under” Clifford initiative for the South Pacific Division occurred when Dr. Milton Hook was contracted to write 32 monographs, mostly dealing with South Pacific issues, for use in the Year 9 Bible Curriculum which had a denominational church history component. Decades later, these monographs commissioned by Gerald Clifford were significantly enlarged by Dr. Hook to provide articles on those topics for inclusion in the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.22

The election of the new (Hawke) Australian national government, and its open determination to re-order Australian society and use education to do it, gave Dr. Clifford the ammunition he needed to get the attention of the Church leadership in the South Pacific. The incoming Australian Commonwealth (Federal) government was open about its determination to establish a national curriculum, one based on humanist principles. Education Minister John Dawkins’ determination to remove all unnecessary differences in schooling across the nation was an open threat to the independence of private and church schools. Clearly the independence of the schools of the Church was under threat from this new government; the choice for private education would be “conformity or closure”. The Church had no choice but to act.23

Thus for Dr. Clifford, 1987 was a very special year. It was then that he was able to establish the SPD Curriculum Unit, implemented in January 1988, initially with Ian Howie leading the primary/elementary program and followed later by Dr. Don Roy. The leader of the secondary curriculum development was Dr. Barry Hill, who remained in that role for the 13 years while the unit operated out of the SPD office and was ably assisted for a good part of that time by Inge-Lise Butler. In order to give practicing classroom teachers ownership of the developing SPD curriculum, it was a feature of the unit at both the primary/elementary and secondary levels that the leaders at both levels were assisted by classroom teachers, with most of them on one-year appointment away from their regular classroom duties. Gerald Clifford then further developed the issues he had presented to the SPD Executive Committee when the Curriculum Unit was formed and presented them in a paper at the Institute for Christian College Teaching held in Lincoln, Nebraska, in August of 1988. Probably this paper is the best expression of Dr. Clifford’s personal philosophy of Christian Education and it also displays the considerable intellect of the man.24

The General Conference Office of Education, impressed with what the new Curriculum Unit was doing, twice made US$30,000 contributions toward the development of the SPD Bible materials with the understanding the Curriculum Unit would then in turn release copyright to the General Conference for world-wide use.

The integrated secondary subject frameworks were highly regarded by the General Conference Office of Education which supplied them to each of the 13 world divisions and the 100 or so tertiary institutions owned and operated by the Church.25

However, there were some headwinds with the work of the Clifford initiated Curriculum Unit. The first was its funding source which was a levy on the government funding of the eleven local conferences in Australia and New Zealand. This was unpopular as the conferences would have preferred to make their own decisions in the use of these monies. Gerald Clifford would always agree with that assessment when the issue was raised and then observe that without the levy there would never have been a Curriculum Unit! For several years running, the Union Conference presidents in the SPD met with the Curriculum Unit in the 1990s to establish whether its work should continue another year. Unfortunately, much of the disquiet at the time arose from teachers critical of the work of the Curriculum Unit. What was difficult for the denominational leaders was that the criticism was typically an expression of teacher resistance to change; that the teachers wanted professional support but that was only useful if they did it themselves, which they never had the time to do; Thus the work of others such as the Curriculum Unit professionals was not as seriously valued out in the field as had been hoped.

The second issue was cultural. Unlike the United States where K-12 education of the time was textbook and workbook oriented, Australian and New Zealand teachers by contrast used few textbooks as their classroom teaching which was more teacher-resource based. Thus, teaching tended to be rather individualistic and there was considerable resistance therefore to the whole-hearted use of the Curriculum Unit materials under development. The expected compliance was perceived to depreciate the traditional initiative. This was unfortunate as, by contrast, other divisions of the World Church much admired what the Curriculum Unit was doing, especially with the teaching of Bible and Adventist values. Consequently, several of those other divisions went to considerable length to organize workshops for their teachers and ‘borrowed’ Ian Howie and Drs. Hill and Roy as presenters.

In spite of all the Clifford and Curriculum Unit effort put forth over years, the notion of Adventist education in Australia and New Zealand as a service rather than a ministry still persisted. Part of the problem was the divide between the preaching and teaching ministries of the Church. The teachers tended to be critical of the lack of pastoral interest in the work of the schools as a soul-winning opportunity, and the preachers were discomforted by the rapid growth in the K-12 system which before long meant some conferences had more teachers than preachers on the payroll, and working in a very well-resourced system due to the use of recurrent government funding which paid about half the cost of operating the schools. Consequently, Gerald Clifford spent years under constant, and at times severe, criticism and resistance both within the education system he had created and from the wider Church. This, he patiently endured with considerable stoicism and a quiet determination which some looking on saw as aloofness or remoteness. Those who had experienced the responsibility of senior leadership knew differently and went out of their way to support and encourage him. In time, things improved, and he was able to relax a little.

It is noted that these issues were still alive and well a decade later (and well after Gerald Clifford had gone on to another role) when the SPD Education Office organized Summit 1 to philosophically set the direction of the system for the years to come. Forty-six delegates attended the three-day meetings, and the agenda was a series of nine propositions. The first was that Adventist education was not just a service to the Church membership but rather a soul-winning ministry. It was anticipated this first proposition would result in 20 or 30 minutes or so of discussion. Instead, it went on for a day and half, and this unexplained but constant resistance to the concept bewildered the educators present. The proposal was eventually supported by just a one vote majority. While a win, it certainly fell far short of the mandate being sought. But the then-SPD director of Education was finally enlightened after the close of the event when a local conference president26 delegate stormed into his office and insisted it was time that the education fraternity got over its “‘arrogance”. The three “‘Rs”’, “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, belonged to the teachers, but the fourth “R”, religion, belonged only to the ministers!

When the SPD Curriculum Unit was transferred to the Australian Union Conference in early 2001, the Key Learning Areas (KLAs) were essentially complete, including the Bible, except for Mathematics, the hardest of them all to address from an integration of faith and learning viewpoint. Subsequently, Rosemary Hafner27 of the New South Wales (NSW) Government Education Department was to confirm in a letter that those KLA’s met the curriculum requirements of both the NSW government as well as the Church, and thus it was expected that the Adventist schools would use those documents as the basis of their programming. Thus, many years earlier, Gerald Clifford’s original vision for the schools’ mission in the SPD was on its way to being implemented and supported by the government.

Change is thus both slow and hard and, to a degree, the independent “down-under” mindset had endured. The ESDA article on SDA education in Australia documents the resistance of the teacher workforce to the uniform use of the SPD Curriculum Unit developed materials.

While South Pacific Division Curriculum personnel had developed primary and secondary Bible materials, the majority of Australian teachers apparently were either using the North American Division Bible program developed in the 1970s or were creating their own materials to meet the needs of their students.28

That statement well reflects the difficulty in obtaining education system-wide implementation of curricula, but it is not correct that the teachers were using the North American Bible program. The reality is that the Australian and New Zealand teachers, in significant numbers, preferred to continue using the aging and General Conference-sponsored, International Bible Program developed by Dr. Trevor Lloyd under the leadership of Gerald Clifford as mentioned earlier in this document. The political reality is that the Church in the South Pacific spent 13 years and some millions of dollars on developing Adventist curricula of all subjects, and especially so for Bible and its work was highly regarded worldwide, as already mentioned and by government authorities as well with one example mentioned above. Further, it would be interesting whether the current Australian Union Conference Encounter Bible program in this post-modern age with all its independent attitudes, is any better accepted by the teacher workforce than the earlier SPD Curriculum Unit generated Bible and other materials.

Gerald Clifford was very committed to the welfare of the teachers and quickly organized the first of three upgrading programs at Avondale College for primary/elementary teachers who were two-year, certificate-level trained, or two or three-year diploma graduates. Later Avondale College, under the leadership of the School of Education Chairman Dr. Don Roy made provision for all primary/elementary teachers to upgrade to the four-year B.Ed. qualification.29 This development was ground-breaking in that, in time, it led to the end of the prevailing view in the “down-under” culture that ones’ initial training was adequate for life. As part of that transition, Dr. Clifford established a South Pacific Extension Campus for La Sierra University which by 2000 had provided over 100 M.A. degrees in Administration, Counselling, and Curriculum.30

Gerald Clifford in his early years as SPD director of Education took a collection of rather independent church schools and welded them, by the sheer force of his personality, into the forerunner of the professional and well-run system here today. As part of that, he also established the Central Staffing Committee which managed the teacher placement, transfer, and promotion of the K-12 educators across Australian and New Zealand and the expatriate teacher missionaries out in the Pacific Islands. Unpopular initially and strongly resisted, it had the advantage of careers being managed by professional educators over conference and union administrations who, while well-meaning, did not always understand the professional and system needs of the teaching ministry of the Church. However, when the SPD sponsored La Sierra M.A. students began fellowshipping with their American counterparts in their final eight-week summer school on campus at Riverside in California, they soon decided there were advantages to having professionals looking after their career development instead of annual election by local church school boards as is the American custom. Learning also that they were also a little better paid than their American denominational counterparts brought them back home feeling more confident about their work environment.31

Gerald Clifford established the SPD School Uniform Committee as part of the systemization of the K-12 program in Australia and New Zealand. There were advantages of an Adventist international uniform across the two countries, and it was also a cost saving to families moving from place to place when compared with each school having its own uniform requirements. It lasted for a decade or so, but it was very difficult to maintain, politically, in the face of the ever-present desire for local over system control, and when Australia’s climate ranges from temperate to tropical. As far as the wider Church membership at large was concerned, this was probably the most controversial Gerald Clifford innovation. While uniforms were part of the Antipodean culture, the issue was that the individual schools each preferred to have their own uniform rather than conform to an international Adventist system-wide model. The SPD School Uniform Committee was always chaired by the Education office associate director, and the two individuals who held that position during the Gerald Clifford era both struggled with the issue. For a time, Gerald Clifford, encouraged his two associates to battle on “as long as they could,” but he recognized and accepted the reality that there would eventually have to be a change. Eventually, a compromise was reached. Each local conference in Australia and New Zealand would have a uniform for all the schools in its system rather than each individual school going its own way.32

In his typical astute way, Gerald Clifford established a full-time government liaison position to work with the Australian Commonwealth (federal) government in Canberra with Rommert (Bob) Spoor the original incumbent. Because the SDA schools were a system rather than numerous free-standing independent campuses, it qualified for extra government attention. The Adventist Church representative was soon appointed to significant committees in Canberra along with the Catholic School System and the Association of Independent Schools. Unlike the other two groups which were preoccupied with increasing their government funding, the Adventist schools were instead focused on being able to teach the required government curricula in harmony with their philosophy. Thus, the Commonwealth government saw Adventist education's priority to be philosophically rather than financially driven and considered that to be admirable and principled. It was nice, too, that the prime minister of the time, John Howard, would on occasion walk up to Bob Spoor and address him by name, and they would talk for a bit. It could not get better than that for the Church, and that was only possible because of Gerald Clifford’s initial proactive approach.33

Another Clifford initiative was the Inter-Union Mission Board of Education which met annually at Pacific Adventist College/University and coordinated the collaborative development of the education ministry of the Church across Melanesia and Polynesia. It worked well and inspired Dr. John Waters, a decade or so later, to establish a parallel organization for the two Union Conferences in Australia and New Zealand. In spite of the initial reservations of the South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the SDA Church (SPD) administration, which initially gave only a trial approval, the Inter-Union Conference Board of Education soon became a permanent and effective reality which worked well until the restructuring implemented in 2001 from which time there has been just one Union conference for all of Australia.34

Gerald Clifford also created the South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SPD) Tertiary Education Board to coordinate the activity of the post-secondary and higher education (tertiary) training institutions of the Church in the South Pacific, Avondale College, Pacific Adventist College, Fulton College, Sonoma College, Sopas Hospital School of Nursing, and the Atoifi Hospital School of Nursing. Initially strongly resisted in some quarters, the Board soon settled down and has had a useful and enduring function.35

Gerald Clifford always maintained that a properly written set of minutes would enable a reader, 15 years later, and who had not been at that particular meeting, to understand why the issue had been placed on the agenda and the reason for the action taken. Typically, this would require a preamble in both the agenda and the minutes. Further, well-written minutes would include the name of the person responsible for implementing that action. Also, Board and Committee members needed to receive their agendas and back-up materials ahead of the meeting so they could subsequently have an informed participation in the discussion on the day. This was a very high standard indeed and one seldom seen in reality until then! Thus the members of Gerald Clifford’s new team at the SPD in 1988, all highly experienced educators, were astonished to find the minutes they had written had been extensively edited, all in red ink, and needing to be redone in order to meet the requirements of the Clifford mantra. It was a steep learning curve for all involved!36


Gerald Clifford never seemed to take a break; he seemed to be always on task. On one occasion some of the other team members in their disbelief at the hours Dr. Gerald worked asked Associate Director Bill Irvine if he had ever seen Gerald Clifford take a break. He had to think about before he remembered that once on flight together to Papua New Guinea Gerald Clifford had taken a 30-minute nap on the plane! As already mentioned, he was fascinated with computers, and fairly typical of the time, they would come with large manuals. When new software was installed at the office, Gerald Clifford liked to take the manual with him and read it in his (few) spare moments when travelling. Colleagues sharing a room with him on the road noted he typically read these manuals late at night before going to sleep. When the manual hit the floor for the third time he would finally give up and turn off the light. Back at the office he was a real nuisance! This fellow, who had never actually used this software package before, would annoy the secretarial staff by showing them all the keyboard shortcuts so they would not have to use the mouse! He had not only read the manual; He had internalized it! The secretaries, grumbling away, would point out how it was impossible to learn these keyboard shortcuts when Gerald Clifford had taken the manual away with him as he travelled!

And, of course, he would occasionally comment about new staff members who did not keep up with the developing technology. It was hard for him to understand why they didn’t.37 Apparently it had never occurred to him that not everyone enjoyed studying computer manuals enough to choose them for bedtime reading. However, he was always kind and helpful, desiring the best for others, characteristics evidenced also in his family life. He was a good Dad to his teenage son, Dennis, who was still living at home.

A brilliant writer of policy, Gerald Clifford usually did such a good job that few were able to successfully oppose him. On the few occasions one of his proposals was rejected by the Division Committee, it was not wise to think that was the last of the issue. It took some people a while to realize that they could not relax because while they were asleep, Gerald Clifford would be up late into the night revising his document using alternative and more palatable language, without changing the intent, and would have the update waiting on the desk of each of the SPD officers when they arrived at work the next morning. Once, while Dr. Clifford was away from the office, and the day before a Division Committee with the agenda being prepared, the SPD Associate Secretary, Pr. Vern Parmenter, came to see Gerald Clifford’s associate director holding five or six revisions of the original policy proposal under consideration, each an update as a consequence of feedback from SPD officers. The question was, which was the latest version for inclusion in the agenda? Of course, no one knew the answer because it was always hard to keep up with Gerald Clifford! An agreement was reached on that occasion that the associate director would encourage Dr. Clifford to footnote the version number of each revision in future, and he did!38

Those who had the most respect for Gerald Clifford were those who most closely worked with him; those at a distance, not so much. The South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the SDA Church is a huge field geographically, and the further away from the head office one works, coupled with the typical Australasian independent mindset, the less the influence of that office. The reality that Gerald Clifford was able to make the major contribution he did in spite of the challenges of geography and down-under culture is remarkable.

Gerald Clifford’s contribution to Adventist education was recognized long before his retirement when, in 1990, Dr. Humberto Rasi, then the world director of Adventist education, conferred upon him the Medallion of Distinction, the most senior award the world church has for its educators. Its criteria are prescriptive; among other things, the awardee must have made a significant contribution to Adventist education in two Divisions of the world Church. Thus, this award is seldom conferred, and Gerald Clifford was the first,39 and for many years, the only recipient in the South Pacific Division.


Cape of Good Hope Birth Certificate, Number 10888, Issued July 19, 1927.

Currow, Stephen J., Fulton Adventist University College, SDA Encyclopedia.

DeBerg, Devine & Skryzpaszek Lecture Notes, database & Resources, DVD (14th edition), General People, Robert S. Folkenburg, Adventist & Ellen G. White Research Centre, Avondale University College.

Devine, Lester. “Butler, Lancelot Lewis (1918–2004) and Hilda Gwenneth (Peacock) (1922–2018).” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, January 29, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2022.

Gerald F. Clifford, death certificate, NSW, Australia, 139585/2012.

Gerald F. Clifford, Helderberg College diploma, October 28, 1949.

Gerald F. Clifford, (September 13, 2012) obituary, South Pacific Record, December 1, 2012.

Gerald Clifford, listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges from Walla Walla Colleges, 1957–58.

Gerald Clifford, Certificate of Ordination to the Gospel Ministry, East African Union Mission, January 24, 1963.

Murdoch, Daryl. “Seventh-day Adventist Education in Australia.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2022.

Personal Service Record for Gerald Francis Clifford, Archives, South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Rosemary Hafner, Inspector, Non-Government School Review, Office of the Board of Studies, New South Wales Government, letter to Don Roy, February 10, 2004.

South Africa marriage certificate, B508703, for Gerald and Pamela Clifford, January 3, 1950.


  1. Cape of Good Hope Birth Certificate, Number 10888, issued July 19, 1927.

  2. Pamela Clifford, email to author, March 26, 2021.

  3. Personal Service Record for Gerald Francis Clifford, Archives of the South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2.

  4. Gilbert Valentine, “Clifford, Francis George,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.

  5. Gerald F. Clifford, Helderberg College diploma, October 28, 1949.

  6. South Africa marriage certificate, B508703, for Gerald and Pamela Clifford, January 3, 1950.

  7. Personal Service Record for Gerald Francis Clifford, Archives of the South Pacific Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Gerald F. Clifford cited in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 1957-58 edition.

  10. Gerald Clifford’s ordination certificate.

  11. DeBerg, Devine & Skryzpaszek Lecture Notes, database & Resources, DVD (14th edition, General People, Robert S. Folkenburg, Adventist & Ellen G. White Research Centre, Avondale University College.

  12. Gerald F. Clifford, (September 13, 2012) obituary, South Pacific Record, December 1, 2012, 21-22.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Owen Mason, SPD Associate Treasurer, Principals Conference, Pine Rivers campground, Queensland, 1989.

  15. Lester Devine, “Butler, Lancelot Lewis (1918–2004) and Hilda Gwenneth (Peacock) (1922–2018),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, January 29, 2020,, accessed July 14, 2022.

  16. Daphne Townend, telephone interview by author, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, January 20, 2021.

  17. Dr. Ray Wilkinson, telephone interview with author, March 30, 2021.

  18. Lester D. Devine, personal knowledge.

  19. Ibid.

  20. G. F. Clifford, “Pervading the Secular Curriculum with the Christian Ethic”, a paper presented at the Institute for Christian College Teaching, Lincoln, Nebraska, August 1988.

  21. Lester D. Devine, personal knowledge.

  22. Milton Hook email to Lester Devine, 27 January 2021.

  23. Rommert Spoor, telephone interview by author, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, January 20, 2021.

  24. G. F. Clifford, “Pervading the Secular Curriculum with the Christian Ethic”, a paper presented at the Institute for Christian College Teaching, Lincoln, Nebraska, August 1988.

  25. Lester D. Devine, personal knowledge.

  26. Neil Lawson, president, South New South Wales Conference, viewpoint expressed to Lester D. Devine, then SPD director of education.

  27. Rosemary Hafner, inspector, Non-Government School Review, Office of the Board of Studies, New South Wales Government, letter to Don Roy, February 10, 2004.

  28. Daryl Murdoch, “Seventh-day Adventist Education in Australia.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020, accessed July 14, 2022,

  29. Don Roy personal knowledge, former chair of the then-Avondale College School of Education.

  30. Lester D. Devine, personal knowledge.

  31. Ibid. LSU South Pacific Extension campus MA program coordinator, 1987–2000.

  32. Lester D. Devine, Chairman SPD Uniform Committee, 1988–1990.

  33. Rommert Spoor, telephone interview by author, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, January 20, 2021.

  34. Lester D. Devine, personal knowledge.

  35. Ibid.

  36. Ibid.

  37. Pamela Clifford, telephone interviews by author, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, February 19, 2021.

  38. Lester D. Devine, associate SPD director of education 1988–1990, personal knowledge.

  39. Lester D. Devine, SPD director of education 1990–2000, personal knowledge.


Devine, Lester. "Clifford, Gerald Francis (1927–2012)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 15, 2022. Accessed May 25, 2024.

Devine, Lester. "Clifford, Gerald Francis (1927–2012)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 15, 2022. Date of access May 25, 2024,

Devine, Lester (2022, July 15). Clifford, Gerald Francis (1927–2012). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 25, 2024,