Remembering Professor William Dobell (1928 – 2014)
WUSC was deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. (Professor) William (Bill) Dobell, a dedicated WUSC alumnus and professor emeritus from Western University. Professor Dobell passed on peacefully on October 25, 2014 in his 86th year.
Bill was born and raised in Montreal, but attended secondary school in Port Hope before returning to Montreal to complete first degree at McGill University. Both of his subsequent post-graduate degrees were completed in England at Oxford University where his studies focused on politics, governmental policy, history and international relations. After his graduate dissertation was accepted in 1956, he returned to Canada to begin a 5-year contract with the National Research Council.
It was in Ottawa in 1961 that he met his wife Eileen. They began their 53 years of married life by travelling east to St. John’s, Newfoundland where Bill began his academic career as Assistant Professor in the History and Political Science departments of Memorial University. He took over the International Relations course and initiated one in Canadian Foreign Policy. His varied committee work reflected these interests and a passion for developing student awareness of the world beyond North American concerns. It was here that he became involved with WUSC as a Faculty Advisor and, in the summer of 1963, served on the faculty of the International Seminar to Pakistan.
A few years later, and exactly 50 years ago in July, Bill once again joined WUSC as a Faculty Advisor for the 1966 International Seminar to Turkey. He had left Memorial in 1965, for the Politics Department at University of Western Ontario in London (now Western University), to become professor of Political Science specializing in International Politics and Canadian Foreign Policy. While on the Seminar with WUSC, Eileen stayed home taking care of the first of their two children to arrive – Mark and eventually, Diane.
During the Turkey Seminar, Bill led a study group of participants focused on “Politics and International Relations”. As he had in Pakistan, Bill wrote brief bulletins to Eileen throughout the Seminar, giving glimpses into the group’s experiences in exchanges with Turkish counterparts. For him, there was a special satisfaction in guiding students through their first practical overseas experience. Eileen kept these letters and all these years later they bring to life memories of his enthusiasms and their early years together.
Returning to Western, Bill continued teaching, researching, writing in his specialty for more than 30 years. Looking back at his career, it can be seen that the learnings from the 2 WUSC seminars formed a useful background to later sabbatical research in Pakistan and particularly Cyprus, producing major articles on “Cyprus and World Politics” and Canada’s peacekeeping role there. After his retirement in 2003, he continued teaching part-time for some years.
Eileen says: “As a professor of Political Science/International Relations, Bill was both highly knowledgeable and deeply interested in the politics of the regions he visited. On WUSC seminars, engagement with the students and the teaching was most important to him. He even seemed to thrive on the inevitable discomforts and reversals. Beginning as an Oxford student backpacking through Europe and across North Africa, he loved travel which gave insight into the political and cultural history of countries. This didn’t stop when, in later years, we travelled widely together. In our years as a family, we never stopped learning together.”
Bill is dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.
This year, as the 1966 Turkey Seminar participants share memories and experiences from 50 years ago, Bill will be remembered fondly as a patient, kind and thoughtful leader who guided them through their experiences.