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Queen’s remembers Roy Walmsley

Roy WalmsleyThe Queen’s community is remembering the life and work of Roy Walmsley, founder of the university’s Physical Therapy program, who passed away on Dec. 16, 2021.

In 1967, Dr. Walmsley was recruited to establish the Physical Therapy Program within the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University. He served as head of the program for three decades.  What began as a diploma program in 1967 converted to a Bachelor’s degree in 1972 and then a became a Master’s in 2005.

Dr. Walmsley created Queen’s Physical Therapy program from the ground up – from establishing the curriculum to procuring equipment – and brought it national recognition.

“I had a blank piece of paper,” Dr. Walmsley said at a 50th anniversary celebration of the program’s first graduating class. “There were lots of things to learn and I learned as I went along.”

He was later also appointed to run the physiotherapy clinical program at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) where he made an impact by recruiting a head for the department of physiotherapy. This expanded relationship between the Queen’s program and KGH was a crucial development as it ensured physical therapy students had access to appropriate clinical facilities, while also benefiting the Kingston population with enhanced access to physiotherapy. Later, Dr. Walmsley established wider partnerships with other medical facilities across Eastern Ontario for clinical placement opportunities.

"Dr. Walmsley was a pioneer for our physical therapy program and laid the groundwork for the successes of so many faculty, staff, and students,” says Marcia Finlayson, Director of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and Vice-Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences.

When he joined Queen’s, Dr. Walmsley had a diploma in physical therapy from the UK, but he wanted to elevate his credentials. Pulling double duty as a program head and a Queen’s student, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1969. Dr. Walmsley continued to pursue higher education throughout his career, earning his Master of Science from the University of Minnesota and his PhD in Bio-Medical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow in 1994.

Born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, Dr. Walmsley immigrated to Canada in 1957. He worked as a therapist at Hamilton Children’s Hospital until 1963, when he returned to Sheffield for extra qualifications. In 1966, he resumed life in Canada to work at the University of Toronto before joining Queen’s. Other career accomplishments included chairing the Discipline Committee of the College of Physiotherapists and serving internationally as an external examiner. He also taught in Australia, Ukraine, and Jamaica.

According to his obituary, Dr. Walmsley’s retirement pursuits included extensive travel on the rivers of Europe, small ship cruising, and birding in North and South America. He loved to play racquet sports – in particular, squash, badminton and pickle ball. When not watching Manchester United, he might be playing duplicate bridge or walking his dog.

His tenacious character and dedication to Queen’s Physical Therapy and School of Rehabilitation Therapy will not be forgotten.

“Dr. Walmsley was a wonderful mentor and friend,” says Dr. Eslie Culham, professor emerita. “I was completing my PhD in what was then the Department of Anatomy in 1990 when he suggested that I apply for a faculty position in the Physical Therapy Program in the School. His friendship and support continued when I joined the faculty and his advice and encouragement were invaluable as I took over responsibilities as Chair of the PT Program from him after 27 years of his leadership in the position.

“On a personal level I always found Dr. Walmsley to be kind and caring in his interactions with faculty, staff and students both within and outside the school,” she adds. “He listened to and was respectful of others’ opinions. In short, he had the attributes needed for a good leader and administrator.”