John Gorham remembered for his long career as educator

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John L. Gorham Sr., who had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and coach at Father Ryan High School, was remembered by family and friends for his dedicated career of service through encouraging young people.

Mr. Gorham died on Dec. 29. 2020. He was 84 years old. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Jan. 23, 2021, at The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Details for a Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.

John Lloyd Gorham Sr. was born March 14, 1936, in Des Moines, Iowa. After a brief time in Little Rock, Arkansas, he moved to Nashville with his family where he spent the remainder of his life.

He attended The Cathedral School and Father Ryan High School. After graduating in 1954, he attended The University of Notre Dame for two years and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1958, where he made many lifelong friends as a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. In 1968, John obtained his Master of Education degree from Middle Tennessee State University.

During his summer breaks from Vanderbilt, Mr. Gorham began lifeguarding at Belle Meade Country Club, and eventually managed the pool while teaching swim lessons and coaching the swim team.

In 1961, Mr. Gorham and Al Davis founded the Davis-Gorham Day Camp. With its legendary buses gathering boys across Nashville and staffed by many of Nashville’s finest high school coaches, it provided summer recreation as well as life-long lessons and memories to thousands of boys until its closing in 1986.

The passion of Mr. Gorham’s life and his true vocation was teaching. In 1959, John began his career in education at St. Henry School, teaching seventh and eighth grade math, as well as coaching the basketball and football teams.

In 1963, he moved to Bellevue High School where he taught math and coached wrestling, baseball, and girls’ basketball. From 1971 to 2004 he taught algebra at Father Ryan High School and earned numerous awards as he coached the girls’ basketball team and helped lead the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams to multiple N.I.L. championships.

Mr. Gorham also served as athletic director and assistant coach for the wrestling and football teams, and in 1999 he founded the girls’ lacrosse team and led them to two state championships.

While at Father Ryan, Mr. Gorham was also a dedicated SEARCH team member within the Catholic Diocese, a very meaningful experience in his life and a testament to his strong Catholic faith.

In 2006, he began teaching seventh and eighth grade math at Harding Academy where he was an extraordinary advisor, retreat leader, and talented lip-syncer until 2017. Mr. Gorham finished his 62-year teaching career at Ravenwood High School where he taught in the Special Education Department until December 2020.

Mr. Gorham was remembered as a teacher that drew out a person’s potential and was successful because of the love he had for his students and athletes. His devotion was recognized by the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools in 2000 with the reception of the Hubert Smothers Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was recently inducted into the Father Ryan Athletics Hall of Fame for his dedication to coaching.

In his spare time, Mr. Gorham never stopped learning and challenging himself. Some of his most notable personal achievements include writing and publishing his own series of Algebra textbooks, mastering the 8×8 Rubik’s Cube, and memorizing the first 1,000 digits of Pi. He was also extremely committed to nurturing his artistic talents and sharing his creations with friends and family. His favored media were beads, glass, hemp, wood, and the strings of his ukulele.

“John lived a life of faith-filled service and was always willing to give fully of himself,” recalled his family. “Famous for his joyous laugh and the ‘twinkle in his eye,’ he was a true example of whole-hearted living. Wherever he was and whoever he was with, he had a gift of making people feel seen and understood. He gave the gift of his time. Whether he was tutoring after school, teaching someone how to dive, or cheering on his students or grandchildren from the sidelines, he made himself a constant presence in the community and showed up proudly as everyone’s greatest fan. He enjoyed people and took time to listen to their stories and helped everyone to see what gifts they had to offer the world. He believed in his students and players and dedicated his life to working with them until they too believed in themselves. John’s legacy will forever live on through the students he taught, the campers he influenced, the players he coached, the friendships he cherished, and the children he raised.”

Mr. Gorham was preceded in death by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Matthias (Penninah) Gorham Sr., and his twin brother, Dr. Matthias Gorham, Jr.

Survivors include his loving wife of 57 years, Kathie Gilmore Gorham; his sister, Shirley Rich (Paul); his children and grandchildren, John, Jr. (Gretchen, Grace, Ellie, John III), Martin (Beth, Martin, Charlie), Ashley (Doug Thompson, Jack, Cate), Brendan (Beth, Maggie, Molly, Lila), Whit (Jessica, Georgia, Helen); and his many nieces and nephews.

Honorary pallbearers included all of his beloved students, dedicated athletes, and Davis-Gorham campers.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Father Ryan High School Tuition Assistance Program, C/O Brooke Reusch, 700 Norwood Drive, Nashville, TN 37204.

Marshall Donnelly Combs Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

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