[Photo of Dr. Sue Hendler}

Dr. Sue Hendler

Associate Professor

School of Urban and Regional Planning

Department of Geography and Planning

In Memoriam

People Directory Affiliation Category

In Appreciation (by John Meligrana, Bev Baines and Dave Gordon),

Dr. Sue Hendler died on September 14, 2009 after a brave struggle with cancer. She was originally educated as a biologist at Carleton and her interests evolved during a master’s in environmental design at Calgary and a planning doctorate at Waterloo. Sue began teaching at Queen’s in 1987 in the School of Urban and Regional Planning, and made other friends and colleagues in Philosophy and Women’s Studies. After 1993, she was a tenured associate professor at SURP and cross-appointed to Women's Studies. Sue became the Head of the Department of Women’s Studies, initiating its graduate program, planning its growth and overseeing its transformation from an institute to an academic department from 1999-2004.

As any student will tell you, visiting Sue’s office was an adventure. Books, magazines, boxes, food, equipment and various unidentifiable objects were all piled almost as high as her office ceiling. This was Sue’s approach – acquire as much information and knowledge from wherever you can and store it for later reflection. To the rest of us it looked like clutter, but not to Sue. She had the uncanny ability to draw connections among seemingly unlikely and unrelated material, thoughts and experiences. She demonstrated this skill successfully throughout her academic career and was nominated for our university’s highest teaching awards. Indeed, during one lecture she was able to make a good connection between her big curly hair and an approach to city planning!

More fundamentally, Sue explored the integration of planning theory and practice through the unifying theme of ethics. Her ground-breaking edited volume Planning Ethics: A Reader in Planning Theory, Practice and Education continues to serve as a foundation text for student planners. She challenged a generation of professional planners to build more humane cities, to think about their behavior and to question societal norms and conventions.

Sue built intellectual bridges between the women’s studies and planning disciplines. Over the past ten years, she worked tirelessly to write women into the planning history of Canadian communities. She located and interviewed some of the first women to work as community planners in Canada. These interviews became part of her book project; tentatively titled I Was the Only Woman: Women and the Planning Profession in Canada. This book will be published posthumously, with the assistance of her former graduate student, Dr. Julia Markovich.

In all these efforts, Sue’s approach was always straight-forward and no-nonsense. In the world of academia, she was somewhat unconventional. While many academics ask long-winded questions, Sue was well-known for her short but pointed queries - ones that always required careful thinking and long answers. She was more comfortable teaching in small classrooms than large lecture halls; would rather listen than talk; and have group discussions than lecture. She refused to be swayed by one intellectual fad or another – she set her own path to enlightenment. It is difficult to assign any one label to Sue – she was a scholar, an administrator, a feminist, an environmentalist and community advocate all rolled into one. As we work late into the night on our next essay, book, lecture, or grant application, Sue’s life is a reminder of the benefits of living a balanced life - one that includes family, friends, community, nature, books, poetry, art and stories. All these things she treasured.
She will be missed and not soon forgotten.

John Meligrana was a student of Sue Hendler and later a faculty colleague in the School of Urban and Regional Planning; Bev Baines is Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Women’s Studies; Dave Gordon is Director of SURP.


  • B.Sc. (Carleton)
  • M.E.Des. (Calgary)
  • Ph.D. (Waterloo)
  • MCIP

Curriculum Vitae (PDF 118 kB)