photograph of Edwin Black

Edwin Black

Emeritus in Memoriam

Ph.D. (Duke); M.A. (UBC); B.A. (Western Ontario)

Political Studies

Professor Emeritus in Memoriam

People Directory Affiliation Category

Edwin Robert Black passed away in Kitchener, Ontario, on December 1, 2023, at the age of 94. 

The following obituary is from the Henry Walser Funeral Home website.

Ed was born in 1929 in Toronto and grew up in Long Branch during the Great Depression and the Second World War. His parents were Lily Pearl McKinley (a Bell telephone operator) and Frederick Black (a carpenter). Like his father, Ed was actively engaged in the Boy Scout movement, and eventually became a King’s Scout, the highest achievement in the scouting world. It gave him a set of skills that were to come in very handy in the years to come. When the Second World War arrived, his father joined the army and the remaining family (which by then included four children) was left with few financial resources. Their resourceful mother who had a positive, cheerful outlook on life, was able to compensate in many ways for the lack of material wealth. Ed, the eldest of the siblings (followed by Earl, Ralph, and Carol) inherited his parents’ gregarious personalities, and was very intelligent and inquisitive. He did well in school, participating in clubs and serving as business manager to the Avalanche, the high school yearbook. Always a hard worker, Ed picked up many jobs to help with his family’s finances, including stints as a ditch digger, ice carrier (for the iceboxes), and truck driver - whatever he could find in those challenging times.  
After high school he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Western Ontario. He distinguished himself in his final year by winning a scholarship in journalism. Following graduation, he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in a number of places, including Queen’s Park, Montreal, Hamilton, Kapuskasing, and Vancouver.
On October 25, 1952, he married Anne Euphemia Cover, marking the beginning of a long, mutually-supportive partnership—one that was to last over 70 years. Three children followed: Robert Evan (1953), Catherine Pearl (1955) and Mary Louise (1957), all of whom benefited from the friendly, engaged, and inquisitive natures of both their parents. A parental emphasis on reading, camping, racquet sports, family games, and the encouragement of independent thinking, made for a very enriched upbringing for the children. Family dinners often included an eclectic mix of people from all over the world. After completing graduate work, Ed became a university professor and at Christmas break, Anne always sent Ed to the university to invite for dinner any international students who could not get home for the holiday.
Ed would not have become an academic if Anne had not encouraged him to pursue his studies. While still working nights as a journalist for the Vancouver Province, he earned a Master of Arts degree in political science at the University of British Columbia.  After he won a modest scholarship to undertake a PhD at Duke University in North Carolina, the family of five headed off, camping across the country, with all their worldly belongings loaded into trailer hitched behind a little Morris Minor. The trailer broke down somewhere in the prairies so Ed and Anne piled what belongings they could around their three kids in the car and left the rest behind on the side of the road and completed their journey south. In Durham, N.C., the family subsisted on a small stipend. Anne took care of the kids while Ed worked day and night. With almost all their belongings abandoned by the roadside, ever resourceful Ed hammered together functional furniture from fibreboard. He splashed on a dark wood stain as a finishing touch—his “go-to” approach for any of the household carpentry jobs in the many decades to follow. He completed his PhD in two years, including the rigorous comprehensive exams, and French and German language requirements. The clean copy of his dissertation was carefully typed by Anne at night after the kids were in bed. That dissertation would serve as the foundation for his well-known book on Canadian federalism: Divided Loyalties. In years to follow, he and a group of colleagues and friends (including Alan Cairns, Don Smiley, Ron Watts, and Richard Simeon) made notable contributions to the field of Canadian federalism.  After Duke University, Ed began his distinguished academic career in the political science department at the University of British Columbia.
He joined Queen’s University in 1967. He published books and articles on a wide range of subjects, including federalism, Canadian politics, political communications, and public administration. An 18-month leave period allowed him to join the staff of the House of Commons, where, under the leadership of Robert Stanfield, he set up and directed the Research Office of the Official Opposition. Later, as director of Queen’s School of Public Administration, he set up the Master of Public Administration program for working public servants. A long-time member of McGill-Queen’s University Press, he also held organizational positions at the Centre for Resource Studies, the Institute for Inter-Governmental Relations, and the Canadian Journal of Political Science. He was president of the Canadian Political Science Association and also served as head of the Department of Political Studies. He retired from Queen’s in 1994. 
At his retirement party, all the guests turned up wearing bowties, to honour his unique sartorial style. Former colleagues, staff, and students remarked on his rigorous, energetic, and accomplished leadership, as well as his exemplary approach to teaching, research, and administration—an approach they said instilled in them a desire to strive for their very best.  His eclectic interests included both setting up and maintaining the first computers in the political science department. Students were loyal, devoted, and very appreciative, although often intimidated by his daunting (sometimes terrifying) ability at intellectual jousting.  Many have commented on being on the sharp point of one of his ripostes. They made sure they were well-prepared for class! Nevertheless, he was a highly sought-after graduate student advisor.
Ed was an outstanding mentor to his students, colleagues, children and so many others. He was honest, wise, fair, patient and kind, typically giving others the benefit of the doubt, including those students and junior instructors who tried the patience of many of his colleagues. A pacifist and a progressive, Ed believed strongly in good governance, and a tolerant, just society. Well ahead of his time, in 1972 he published a paper advocating for guaranteed annual minimum income for all Canadians.
After retirement, Ed travelled West to spend a few years helping to launch the University of Northern British Columbia, then settled in Kitchener-Waterloo, where for a brief time he served as an adjunct professor in the University of Waterloo's Political Science department and on the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.
In the three decades that followed, he contributed his considerable energies to various community causes, winning a number of “outstanding volunteer” awards. He rarely attended the award ceremonies; he preferred to engage in numerous other activities that occupied his busy mind. In his words he “… fiddled a lot helping seniors with their computers, organized district senior summer games and terrorized others on area golf courses.” And that was only a fraction of his diverse pursuits, which also included being a lifelong supporter of the local symphony. During retirement, he and Anne were able to pursue their passion for travel, appreciating different cultures and traditions in many parts of the world.
A few months before he passed away, his devoted wife, Anne, died. They cared for, and took care of, each other until the end. Ed is survived by his sister Carol Simone Kay, his three children, Robert Black (Cathy), Catherine Cook (William), Mary Louise Kattides (Evangelos), seven grandchildren, John (Lisa), Catherine (Paul), William (Beyza), Christina (Joel), Mary Alexandra (Brandon), David, and Christine (Conor), and five great-grandchildren, Benjamin, William, Nathan, William, and Jack.