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Letters to the editor: February 2019

Letters to the editor: February 2019

[photo of flowers blooming on Queen's campus]

Remembering David Helwig

David Helwig, former professor (English) and noted author and editor, died Oct.16.

I was a student in several English courses taught by David Helwig in the early 1960s. He was, at the time, only five or six years older than his students. He had a rich, sonorous baritone voice and I enjoyed his lectures, though sometimes he could get carried away in his own brilliance and not quite make sense. He later told me he always knew when this happened because of the puzzled look on my face. His poetry was published in Queen’s Quarterly and I became a fan, attending Canada-Council-sponsored poetry readings in the 1970s whenever he toured Halifax where I lived. After one of these I told him I had always wanted to write and he said, “You just haven’t made a commitment to it,” words which acted as a strong prod. He became a supportive and generous mentor to my writing attempts through the 1980s, providing forthright feedback (“wooden dialogue”) and he edited my first book, published by Oberon.  His own commitment to writing never faltered, no matter the reception of his work, and he remains, in my opinion, an under-appreciated poet in Canada. Each year he sent to friends a Christmas card of gravitas and beauty – a poem or two with profound message held in a distinctive card of his own design, entirely original.

Yet my favourite memory of David is when he, as a young professor, appeared in our Queen’s classroom one morning wearing mismatched socks. He was a small man and always sat on the desk, his legs dangling down in front of us. On this day he wore one brown sock and one blue, decidedly interfering with his lecture. Did he know? After a bit he noticed our contained mirth, looked down and said, “Oh I know they don’t match, but it’s the end of the month.”

Writing was what mattered to him, and in his poetry and novels he made life – both its pain and its beauty – more intense, cherished, and meaningful. I believe he is one of Canada’s great poets whose full recognition has yet to come.

Carol Anne (Matthews) Wien, Arts’65
Professor Emerita, Faculty of Education, York University Halifax

It was with great sadness that I read of the passing of David Helwig, who taught English literature at Queen’s from 1962 to 1974. In the autumn of 1964, I enrolled in the first year of a Bachelor of Nursing Science at Queen’s, having just graduated as a nurse from Kingston General Hospital. We were required to take English, and David Helwig, who would have been in his mid-twenties at the time, was our lecturer. He had recently completed a BA from University of Toronto and a master’s from the University of Liverpool. David was, quite frankly, one of the best teachers I have ever had, from kindergarten to PhD. He used to enter the classroom and sit on the front edge of the long bench that ran across the front of the room, rather than standing behind it as most lecturers did. He would then just talk about the work that we were studying at the time, whether it was Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, or Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. He never seemed to use notes. It was more like a chat than a lecture, but it was packed full of information. I think he was able to do this because he knew his subject so well. It was one of the thrills of my life to get an A on an essay in that course, because David had warned us that he would only be giving out about three As that year.

I became so enraptured by English literature that I considered leaving nursing and studying it. However, practicality prevailed and I ended up teaching nursing in Australia as a “sister tutor” in the hospital nursing education system, and later a professor of nursing when nursing education was transferred into the universities. I believe that David engendered in me a lifelong love of English literature and inspired me to be a better teacher throughout my career.

Kathryn Roberts, NSc’66, Queen’s (MA, PhD, Macquarie University)
Professor of Nursing, Northern Territory University (1990–2003)
Kincumber, Australia

Remembering “Miss G.”

Donna Gallagher, former professor (Physical and Health Education) and volleyball, field hockey, and badminton head coach, died July 18.

I remember Miss G. very well as I had her for many classes...field hockey and volleyball levels 1 to 3. And, of course, her famous class of games of low organization.

Miss G. was an important role model in both my life and career, and I feel saddened over her too early departure from this world. It is always difficult to accept that these “larger than life” people are mortal after all.

However, I’ll always remember her dedication to her profession and students, her marked Massachusetts accent, and the dynamic sparkle in her eye.

Carolyn Broadhurst, Artsci/PHE’77, Ed’78

Honouring Ned Franks

[photo of Ned Franks]

Ned Franks, Professor Emeritus (Political Studies), died this past September. A memorial service, overflowing with family, friends, and former students, was held in November at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. It was a remarkable afternoon, celebrating a good and useful life.  Ned was a beloved mentor to generations of students, a major resource for government and media, and a renowned whitewater paddler. 

To honour Professor Franks, the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ont., is establishing the C.E.S. (Ned) Franks Memorial Fund within the museum’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Program Fund. Monies donated in Ned’s memory will be put toward enhancing artisan programming including canoe building and expansion of the artisans-in-residence and related activities at the museum and beyond. All donations to the Canadian Canoe Museum and are tax-deductible and can be made through the museum’s website or directly to the museum. For more information contact Shirlanne Pawley-Boyd: shirlanne.pawleyboyd@canoemuseum.ca.

Hugh Christie, Artsci’78, Law’81
James Raffan, Artsci’77, Ed’78
Chris Cunningham, Artsci’76

[cover image of Queen's Alumni Review issue 1, 2019, showing a photo of Alfred Bader]