Category: General Message
Subject: Kenneth McRae - Distinguished Colleague and Former CPSA President
The Carleton University Department of Political Science regrets to announce the passing of our distinguished colleague and former CPSA President Kenneth McRae. Ken passed away on May 18, 2015 at the age of ninety. He was one of the most significant figures in the history of the Carleton department and taught many of the current members of the discipline across Canada and internationally.
Born in Toronto, he earned a BA at U of T, his MA and PhD from Harvard, and held a postdoctoral appointment at Nuffield College, Oxford. He joined Carleton College, as it then was, as an assistant professor in 1955, also assuming the role of department chair. He became a full professor in 1964, was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1977, and served as President of the Canadian Political Science Association in 1978-79. He held many other important responsibilities over the years, most notably as Research Supervisor for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
A political philosopher by training and the authority on the 16th century philosopher Jean Bodin, Ken was most prominently known in the discipline for his work on consociational democracy and the governing of bilingual and multilingual societies, publishing a number of very well-known books and articles on the subject. He remained an active scholar throughout his life. In 2014, he published a new scholarly book with Oxford University Press on his father-in-law F.E. Simon, a nuclear physicist and important figure in the atomic race of the 1930s and 1940s.
Colleagues have wonderful memories of Ken as a scholar, colleague, and friend. Widely known as a quiet and modest man, Ken was, in the words of Waller R. Newell, “a real Canadian gentleman of the old-fashioned and vanishing sort, right down to his demeanor and the indefinable accent and mannerisms which one instantly recognizes as the mark of such people.” Jill Vickers remembers, “In the 1960s, virtually no women taught political science…It was Ken and his colleague Don Rowat who persuaded me that there was a career in political science for me despite considerable odds. Ken helped me imagine that career and supported me in my choices.” Ken is also remembered for his labyrinthian office, crammed with filing cabinets and stacks unusual even by the usual standards of scholarly lairs. Elliott Tepper remembers, “my fondest memory of him was standing at his office door and calling out ‘Ken are you in there’? He would call back over the pile an invitation to come in, which led to wonderful conversations.” Ken is fondly recalled and will be deeply missed by his colleagues in the Carleton Department of Political Science and the discipline as a whole.