NCTA, Tribute

Auf Wiedersehen, Mr. President

By Tony Roder

George Kirby, a president of our association from 1985 to 1989, died unexpectedly on December 29, in San Francisco.

A German-to-English translator, George worked for the U.S. government in Europe, and went on to establish and operate his own translation company, Golden Gate Translations, in San Francisco for 25 years. He was also a writer, editor, and author of the book Looking at Germany, among other works.

After a term as NCTA’s vice president, he reluctantly agreed to serve as its president, and he went on to be one of the association’s most active and forceful advocates of translators’ rights in the marketplace, as well as a strong promoter of their professional status. During his presidency, George guided the NCTA through a particularly difficult period when it and its parent organization, ATA, were under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. The concerns he expressed at the time, for example, are still echoed in the May 2005 Translorial, in an article on the open discussion of prices. George concurrently served on the ATA board of directors and co-founded the first translators’ and interpreters’ labor union in the country, the Translators and Interpreters Guild.

It was during his term of office that the NCTA joined Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts to provide legal services for its members; contracted a group health service plan with Kaiser Permanente; engaged its first staff administrator; organized meetings between translation agencies and translators, a precursor to the present job fair; strengthened the association’s telephone referral service; and in 1988 hosted our tenth anniversary dinner, attended by both the president and the past president of ATA.

George Kirby guided NCTA through its fledgling years, for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. He was a gentleman of the old guard, a lover of opera and the arts, with a reverence for language and literature. Another photo of George appears on page 12 of the May 2005 Translorial.