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Who was your favourite professor?

Who was your favourite professor?

Four prominent alumni tell us who their favourite professors were and why.

Did you have a favourite professor at Queen's? If so, please send us a note to tell us who that person was and how he or she influenced you.  We'll post your replies on the Review web site.  



By Nancy Scarth, Sc'49

My favourite professor was Harold Harkness, BSc’13, BA’15, MSc’29, of the Physics Department, in spite of a very shaky start in my first class in the Engineering faculty.

I was one of only two females in the large class, and I dared to ask a question about something I didn’t understand.

Well, Harkness proceeded to tear a strip off me, and he railed about a woman taking up valuable space at the University. Fortunately my colleagues, mostly mature men who were veterans, gave me a vote of support in the smoke break.

Anyway, when I proved to Harkness that I was a capable student, he went out of his way to help me. The other female student never returned to classes.

I found out later that Harkness’s talented daughter had recently been killed in a motor accident, just prior to starting university. I also discovered that he was a very witty after-dinner speaker, and on my invitation, he entertained us mightily at a Sc'44 Co-op Christmas banquet.

Nancy Scarth was the first woman to complete four years of study and then graduate from Faculty of Applied Science. However, she was not the first woman to earn a Bachelor of Science degree at Queen’s.


By Jock Climie, Artsc'89, Law'94

My favourite professor was Professor Rick Jackson.[TSN football analyst Jock Climie]

I took an Industrial Relations course from him in second year. I was totally inspired by the material and by his passion for it—so much so that I promptly applied to law school after completing the mock arbitration that’s a component of Rick’s course.

I’ve since gone on to become a labour lawyer, and I now do for real what I had pretended to do.

I was so grateful to Rick that upon his request I have, for the past several years, returned to Queen’s to lecture the students who are now taking his course.

Jock Climie, a star receiver during his student athlete years at Queen’s and a member of the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame, went on to a 12-year career in the Canadian Football League. He works as a lawyer at the firm of Emond Harnden in Ottawa and for the past five seasons has also worked as an analyst on TSN’s football telecasts.

THE 90-60 RULE

By QUAA President Heather Black, Sc'80

I had many wonderful experiences with profs and advisors over my years at Queen's, but one encounter in particular comes to mind.

I don't remember the year I was in - but I can still picture standing in Nicol Hall with Dr. James Atkinson, who was one of my Metallurgical Engineering professors. As was often the case, he was pulling his hair out trying to find a way to motivate me to apply myself.

We were talking about grades, and Atkinson told me a story about when he was doing his undergrad at McGill. He said that if he loved a course, he put lots of energy into it and never wanted to see a mark lower than 90 per cent.

On the other hand, there were other courses that were less important in the scheme of things and for those, he chose to apply minimum energy and felt that if he got earned a mark of more than 60 per cent, he had wasted time on that course!

His message was such a simple one: divide and conquer, and apply one's effort with intent. I’ve remembered that advice over and over again throughout the past 30+ years, and I have often thought about whether an initiative was worth a more than 90 or less than 60 effort.

That was valuable life advice to an undergrad and was just one of the ways that Queen's teaching staff stand out in my memory and have made a difference to me.

Heather Black is Vice-President, International Banking, at Scotiabank’s head office in Toronto.


By Ahmed Kayssi, Artsci/Sc’03, MSc’05, Meds’09

[Ahmed Kayssi]My favourite Queen’s professor was Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, who taught the History of Medicine course.

She transcended the myopic reductionism that plagues the medical field today.

She had an explosive lecturing style that commanded us to consider the social and historical implications of our actions.

More than anything, she was passionate about students and their well being. Her advice and mentorship have shaped my approach to medicine and the way that I interact with patients.

Ahmed Kayssi, the 28th Rector of Queen’s University, is now training in the general surgery program at the University of Toronto and is rotating at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto until the end of September. 

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-3 cover]