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Association canadienne de science politique
Canadian Political Science Association

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Professor Robert Young - HOMMAGES


The depth and breadth of Bob Young's knowledge was truly remarkable. Has there ever been a CPSA President who has been honoured by both historians and economists as well as by his own discipline? In 1988, he won the CHR Prize for the best article in the Canadian Historical Review and in 1995-96, it was the Douglas Purvis Memorial Prize for the best work on Canadian economic policy. Over the course of his career, he was the go-to person for the political economy of New Brunswick, Canada's position in the North American free-trade negotiations, and for the politics of secession, not just in Canada but in all countries with democratic secessionist movements. In 2003, he was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Multilevel Governance. In this capacity, he attracted SSHRCC funds to conduct the largest research project ever on the role of Canadian municipal governments within Canadian federalism. The series of publications from this project helped rejuvenate the study of Canadian local government and attracted many new scholars to the field. Bob Young's range of connections was unmatched. They spanned Canada's linguistic divide and reached deeply into the ranks of political scientists in other countries. Bob seemed to know everybody personally, not just other scholars and his students but also those who served coffee and food in Western's Social Science Centre and who cleaned its floors and offices. His loss is felt deeply by all of us.
Andrew Sancton, University of Western Ontario

With the death of Bob Young, Canada has lost one of its preeminent political scientists, and CPSA has lost a dedicated supporter and transformative President. During Bob’s tenure as CPSA President (2003-4), while I served as past-president, the executive of the CPSA grappled with the issue of bringing the Journal online and housing it with a publisher with wide distribution. It turned out to be Cambridge University Press, but the decision to go with a non-Canadian press was not easy, given that the Journal had been published for decades by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, under the dedicated managing editorship of John McMenemy. Amidst pressure to maintain the status quo, Bob was clear headed and decisive in calculating what was in the best interests of the Journal and CPSA. Bob’s leadership on the Journal is but one example of his contribution to the Association. It is thus not surprising that Bob’s final academic presentation was at CPSA 2017, where he paid tribute to the late Stephen Clarkson. Throughout his highly accomplished career as a scholar and teacher, Bob always found the time and energy to contribute to the CPSA. All of us in the Canadian political science community have lost a wonderful colleague and a dear friend.
Grace Skogstad, University of Toronto Scarborough and University of Toronto

Bob Young was widely known and respected as a top notch scholar: fearsomely well read; intellectually engaged – and published on – a remarkably wide range of topics, not all within the traditional ambit of political science; ever eager to take on a new research puzzle. Impressive as his academic credentials were, they capture only one side of an extraordinary person. Those of us privileged to have known Bob revelled in his dry wit, his singular style as a raconteur, his insightful understanding of the human condition, which animated an unapologetic concern for those on the margins of society, his empathy and support for his students and his insistence on ‘telling it like it is’. During my term as CPSA President, I turned again and again to Bob for advice; he didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear but he always told me, with sometimes brutal honesty, what I needed to hear. So much of what Bob contributed to the Canadian political science community was like that: astute, uncompromising and unheralded. We have lost not only a fine scholar but a wonderful friend.
Graham White, University of Toronto Mississauga

It's likely that I knew Bob for a shorter period of time than many of you who are also mourning him. However, Bob made himself so available in so many ways that I was fortunate to benefit often and deeply from Bob's knowledge, inquisitiveness, kindness, and generosity. I came to know Bob at conferences in Canada and the US, research visits -- he once traveled to Edmonton to, from what I could tell, check out what was happening in the city -- lots of CPSA Board meetings, and the small and large gatherings of "the MCRI era." Of course, I also learned from Bob's writings and his public talks, including the 12th Annual McDonald Constitutional Lecture, on Quebec secession, at the University of Alberta's Centre for Constitutional Studies. Bob was a leader, and in my department we are honored to have had to opportunity to host the 2012 CPSA meeting because Bob felt strongly that the Association should take a whirl at being independent of Congress. Bob was wildly normal for an academic star. He was as eager to talk -- over good food and drink, and while furiously taking microscopic notes -- about Louise's art, the current puppies, and others at the table as about political science. To me, and I am certain to others, Bob was very forgiving and empathetic. He introduced me to many, many of the international web of scholars he knew, and he introduced students to them, as well. Had there been a chance to say goodbye, Bob would have been uncomfortable, so I take as his parting note an e-mail promise that he would see me soon for a beer.
Judy Garber, University of Alberta

The first time I saw Bob Young, he took his boots off, cleaned them from mud and snow, and started his class in socks. He had an impressive reputation, but all I could concentrate on were his socks. Then, with a clear voice, and an unquestionable knowledge, I forgot all about the socks. He really “got into my brain.” Coming from a foreign country and speaking English as a second language is challenging. Bob always made me feel that my message was clear and comprehensible. Amazingly, I felt it was! He was curious about my country, and never kept a question to himself. He asked me about food, spicy food, politics, history, places, beaches…everything. After finishing my second Master’s, I went back to Mexico. I became a public servant, and a politician. I also kept on studying and started to teach. As a teacher, every single time I enter a classroom, I remember Bob and his socks and I know that when you share your wisdom, your shoes, your outfit, mean nothing. Thank you, Bob. You were a true friend and an amazing teacher. I will be always grateful to the universe for allowing me to be your student.
Yolanda Camacho-Zapata, PHD Candidate, UNAM.

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The CPSA will post tributes to professor Robert Young on its Web site. Please send your messages to