January 27, 2012
1 item

Memorial Service for Dr. Helen Smith: Avila Centre, Saturday, February 4 at 1:30 pm

Remembering Helen

Lakehead University mourns the death of Dr. Helen Smith, an Associate Professor in History and Women’s Studies. A graduate of Lakehead University, Dr. Smith joined the University as a full-time faculty member in 1992.

With Dr. Smith's appointment to the Department of History came new areas of study for students at Lakehead. She had a passion for Medieval, Reformation, and Renaissance History, and she developed the University's first undergraduate courses in Canadian and European Women's History. At the graduate level, she pioneered the study of gender history in the department. Because of her strong interdisciplinary gender studies background, she was cross-appointed to Women’s Studies, where she, along with Dr. Pam Wakewich, laid the foundation for what is now a vibrant Women’s Studies Department at Lakehead University.

Dr. Smith was renowned for her dedication to students. Her door was always open to them; she lent them books from her own considerable library, and she fueled their spirit of inquiry through her constant encouragement to find and explore the contextual questions that needed to be asked. Both within and outside the classroom, she taught students to “think historiographically” – to pay close attention to the ways in which historians construct their understandings of the past. Her students have said how they always wanted to “continue the conversation” after class – a fine tribute to her talent for inspiring a love of learning.

Dr. Smith was an active and award-winning researcher. With long-time collaborator Dr. Wakewich, she published numerous articles in national (Labour/le travail) and international journals (Oral History, Gender & History) and book chapters from her SSHRC-funded archival and oral history research project on Canadian women’s wartime work and identities. She was the recipient of The Riddell Award from the Ontario Historical Society in 2000 and the JP Bertrand Award in 2001.

In addition to being a dedicated researcher and teacher, Dr. Smith believed strongly in the importance of building community and influencing change through service. At the University, her contributions included being Chair of Women’s Studies and History, sitting on Senate, being elected many times to the Promotion, Tenure and Renewal committee, and serving on the LUFA bargaining team. Her devoted service to the Thunder Bay Museum was recognized in 2007 with a Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario. Dr. Smith was also a long-time member of the Thunder Bay Symphony Chorus.

Dr. Gillian Siddall, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, says Dr. Smith had a profound influence on Lakehead University.

“Particularly through her tireless work in establishing a Department of Women’s Studies at Lakehead, Helen made a lasting impact on Lakehead University,” Siddall said. “Helen was a model of collegial leadership, who believed passionately in the value of a university education. She was a mentor to many young faculty and students, and a great colleague and friend to so many members of the university community. While her passing is a huge loss to us, we can remember and celebrate the many wonderful and lasting contributions she made to the University and the community.”

Helen leaves behind her partner, Vic Smith, Associate Professor in the History Department, brothers Philip and Greg, sister Mary, and her nieces Esmeralda, Evelyn and Mayra, and nephew Carlos. She also leaves behind many dear friends and colleagues.

A memorial service for Helen Smith will be held at the Avila Centre (Reaume St. off Central Avenue) on Saturday February 4 at 1:30 pm. A reception will follow.

Since purple was Helen’s favorite colour, guests are encouraged to wear purple to the service in her honour. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lakehead University toward a student award in Helen’s memory.

Please send your donation to:        
The Helen Smith Award in Women’s Studies
Lakehead University Office of Advancement
955 Oliver Road Thunder Bay ON P7B 5E1

You can also donate online at:
Donations can also be made to a charity of your choice.