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RUTHERDALE, Robert Allan

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RUTHERDALE Robert Allan

Professor Robert Rutherdale of Algoma University passed away unexpectedly at his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on June 26, 2021.  He was 65 years old.  Robert is predeceased by his father, John Rutherdale and by his beloved wife Myra. He will be missed by his mother Jean Rutherdale, son Andrew Rutherdale, his brother John, and many colleagues, students, and friends.

Robert was born in Burlington, Ontario on January 9, 1956, and grew up in Burlington, where his father was a general medical practitioner.  In his youth, Robert developed a lifelong passion for hockey, playing locally as a goalie. (In later years, he was known to suit up as a goalie and play with Algoma students in pick-up games.)  After graduating from Burlington High School, he studied at McMaster University, where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce in 1979.  He moved on to the University of New Brunswick, where he acquired a Bachelor of Education with a specialization in History in 1984.

At UNB, Robert took history courses along with Myra, who became the love of his life.  They married in 1984 and moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  Because they shared an enthusiasm for history, Robert and Myra both embarked on graduate-level studies in History, each ultimately earning a PhD.  They also taught at universities across Canada.  Following completion of his MA at McMaster University in 1986, Robert was a sessional instructor at the Oshawa campus of Trent University in the late 1980s, and a contract teacher at Memorial University in Newfoundland in the early 1990s.  After he completed his doctorate at York University in 1994, Robert worked as a sessional instructor at University of Northern British Columbia, University of the Fraser Valley, and University of British Columbia.  In 2003, he became an assistant professor of History at Algoma University College (later Algoma University), where he continued to work until his death.  Although Myra found full-time employment at York University in Toronto, she and Robert were devoted to each other.  They commuted frequently and coordinated their sabbaticals to spend as much time as possible together.  They encouraged each other in their scholarly pursuits, travelled the world together, and raised their son Andrew.  When Myra passed away in 2014 from cancer, Robert was heartbroken.  Nevertheless, he continued to work: publishing, teaching, advocating for his students, and making presentations at conferences across the globe.  He also continued to be a loving, proud parent to Andrew, who established a career as an artist.

In his years in the Sault, Robert blossomed as an academic.  In 2004, his book Hometown Horizons (a study of local responses to World War One in three Canadian communities) was published.  He also co-edited two essay collections: Creating Postwar Canada (2008, co-edited with Magda Fahrni), and Making Men, Making History (2018, co-edited with Peter Gossage).  He also served as a Senate representative on the college’s Board of Governors from 2006 to 2009, and in these years, took part in the process that led Algoma University College to become Algoma University.  Furthermore, Robert was a committed teacher to his undergraduate students.  Many of his former students have testified to Robert’s passion for what he taught, and his compassion for those he taught.  Colleagues also recall his exceptional kindness; as one of his colleagues in the Faculty of the Humanities recalled, Robert was “one of the loveliest human beings I have ever met.”

Indeed, colleagues, students and friends will remember Robert not only for his extensive scholarship and service to the Algoma University community, but perhaps even more as a wonderful human being.  They will remember his passion for the outdoors: for canoeing, fishing, and trips to the beach.  They will remember the parties he hosted at his house for colleagues and students (which often led to Robert singing, and playing guitar and harmonica).  And they will remember his supportive, encouraging, cheerful demeanour.  Our lives are richer because Robert was a part of our world.

A celebration of Robert’s life will be held in the fall.  For those who wish to honour Robert’s memory, the family has requested that they make a donation to the New Democratic Party of Canada at the party’s website.

Visit the O’Sullivan Funeral Home website to leave condolences for the family. Arrangements entrusted to O’Sullivan Funeral Home and Cremation Centre, 215 St. James St, 705-759-8456.