Carleton remembers

This column is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the lives of individuals whose contributions have shaped Carleton University over the years. If you wish to make a submission, please contact the editor at editor@carleton.ca.

Professor Douglas Wurtele

Professor Douglas Wurtele, a long-time member of Carleton University’s Department of English, died in Ottawa on April 7, 2007 at the age of 85.

Current and former Carleton students and colleagues remember professor Wurtele as a warmly encouraging mentor, a compelling lecturer and a model of extraordinary devotion to the “task eternal” of scholarly inquiry and higher education.

An expert on English author Geoffrey Chaucer, he often described himself as “coming to the profession late.” Leaving school early to support his family, he worked as an office boy in Montréal while taking a correspondence degree with London University. Arriving in Ottawa to work as an archivist in 1958, he joined Carleton as a part-time lecturer.

He left Carleton to complete a master’s degree at McGill University and returned to the university in 1965 to teach full-time. Married to fellow McGill student, Anna Yakovleva, he went on to receive one of McGill’s first doctorates in English literature in 1968 and he always maintained that, “Anna’s active mind helped give my scholarship and teaching edge and depth.”

Professor Wurtele had an infectious delight for his work and served Carleton in a number of capacities. During the 49 years that he was a member of the university community, he was not only the chair of the Department of English (1981-1985) and acting Clerk of Senate, he was also the president of the faculty club and the academic staff association respectively and chair of both the United Way campaign and Carleton’s ecumenical chaplaincy committee.

Professor Wurtele’s work was well recognized. His writing on Chaucer was the subject of a joint session of the Canadian Society of Medievalists and the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English convention (1996) and in 2002, McGill-Queen’s University Press issued Chaucer and Language: Essays in Honour of Douglas Wurtele, edited by Robert Myles and David Williams.

In addition, his teaching honours included the prestigious Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association (OCUFA) Teaching Award.

Until the last, he drew energy from teaching; only the onset of illness brought an abrupt end to his seminar on satire this past March. In addition to his teaching and research at Carleton, he edited the journal ESC: English Studies in Canada and, with Roger Blockley who taught Classics at Carleton, founded Florilegium, now the official journal of the Canadian Society of Medievalists.

A memorial service for Professor Wurtele will be held Friday, October 19, 2007 at 5:00 p.m. in the Carleton University Arts Faculty Lounge, 2017 Dunton Tower.

Professor James Tassie

Professor James S. Tassie, a former French professor and one of Carleton University’s founders, passed away on April 24 at the age of 89.

Born in Winnipeg, Professor Tassie grew up in Hamilton. He served as a lieutenant in the Canadian Intelligence Corps during the Second World War and participated in the liberation of Holland. After the war, he completed work towards a PhD in French at the University of Toronto and was hired by Carleton College in 1948 to teach at the First Avenue campus—the second full-time French professor on staff .

Professor Tassie became chair of the Department of French in 1952, serving in that capacity for over 15 years in total, until 1971. He oversaw and guided the growth of the department as it went from the two full-time members of 1948 to 27 full-time members in 1971. Thanks to his leadership, the department recognized early on the importance of language teaching, especially in the National Capital Region. He spearheaded the introduction of French-Canadian literature into the curriculum and Carleton was one of the first universities in English Canada to offer undergraduate courses in this subject.

Professor Tassie taught courses on French-Canadian novels as well as theatre and language courses at various levels and supervised numerous graduate students. He also served as president of the Ontario Modern Language Teachers Association and, for four years, was president of the Alliance Française d’Ottawa.

Professor Tassie’s wife of sixty-one years, Vicki (née Wilhelmina Hoeksma), whom he had met in Holland during the war survived him by a mere 18 days, and passed away on May 12, 2007.

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