Tribute written by Professor Emeritus Ted Spence with University Professor Emeritus Bill Found and Anita McBride
Paul Wilkinson, University Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, passed away on Dec. 19, 2021 at Sunnybrook Hospital ending a three-week stay following emergency surgery. He was predeceased by his wife Dorothy, and is survived by his two children, Christopher and Melanie, and four grandchildren.
Paul graduated in 1970 with an Honours BA magna cum laude in Geography from York University. He then went on to graduate in 1971 with his MA, and in 1974 with his PhD, both in Geography from the University of Toronto.
He was appointed as a lecturer in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York in 1973 while he was completing his PhD. In 1974, he was promoted to assistant professor, in 1977 promoted to associate professor and in 1990 to professor. In 2014, he was recognized with the title of University Professor Emeritus. Paul retired in 2014 but remained an active participant in University affairs and in his research and professional work until his death.
Throughout his more than 47-year association with York University, Paul compiled an outstanding record in teaching and graduate supervision, in research and professional activities, and in service to the University. His contributions were exceptional in all areas. In addition to his appointment in the Faculty of Environmental Studies and more recently in the new Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, Paul was also an active member of the graduate program in geography. At various times in his career he held visiting appointments at universities in California, France, Kenya and Indonesia.
Paul was an exceptional teacher and graduate-level supervisor. He supervised nine environmental studies PhD dissertations and more than 90 masters theses, major papers or major projects. He also supervised a number of masters students in geography and served as a member of numerous supervisory and examination committees across several programs at York and at other universities. He was always in demand as a graduate supervisor. Paul taught a wide range of courses in the environmental studies graduate program and as well in the undergraduate program after it was established in 1992.
In research and professional activities, Paul was an extremely successful and recognized scholar in his field. His work was broadly based, but focused on resource and environmental management, recreation and tourism planning and management, and protected area management. He was the author, co-author or editor of more than 160 works, including 22 books or monographs, 37 book chapters, 35 papers in refereed journals, 16 papers in refereed conference proceedings and more than 50 other scholarly and professional reports. His CV also documents more than 85 conference papers between 1972 and 2019.
Paul held a large number of individual research and travel grants over the years. Much of his work was as a member of research and project teams or in partnership with his students. Most recently he was working as part of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership with a focus on Canadian parks and protected areas. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Paul was an active participant in the Faculty’s major CIDA-funded international partnership projects in Kenya and Indonesia. In the 1980s, Paul also worked with several colleagues on a number of CIDA-funded projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Building on his research Paul took on significant roles outside of York in professional organizations and government initiatives. From 1990 until 2007, he served on the board of directors of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies and served as the vice-president and then president of that association from 1998 until 2001. From 1998 until 2000, he was appointed by the federal Department of Canadian Heritage as a member of the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks. This appointment included the opportunity for Paul to visit all of Canada’s national parks. In 2013 he was appointed a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, a branch of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
In addition to Paul’s dedication to his teaching, students, research and professional activities, he compiled an exceptional record of service contributions within York. In environmental studies, he served as assistant dean in the late 1970s and as associate dean for nine years. At various times he served on all the major committees in the Faculty in various director and coordinator roles, and as the graduate program director and undergraduate program director. He had a major role in developing the successful proposals for the doctoral and undergraduate programs in environmental studies, both of which received Senate approval in the early 1990s.
Paul also made significant contributions in the governance of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Senate and the University’s Board of Governors. Except during his sabbatical leaves, Paul was a member of Senate from 1976 to his retirement. He served on many Senate committees, including multiple terms on both the Senate Executive Committee and on the Senate Academic Policy and Planning Committee. From 1994 to 1996, he served as Senate Vice-Chair and then as Senate Chair. On two occasions, in 1996 and again in 2011, he was elected as the Senate representative to the University’s Board of Governors.
Paul was a cheerful colleague and was known for his outstanding sense of humour and his enthusiastic support for good ideas. He was a great team player and an outstanding member of the York community throughout his career. He was a most deserving recipient of his appointment as University Professor Emeritus. He will be missed by his extensive network of former students and colleagues.
As per Paul’s wishes, for those wishing to make a donation in his memory should give to the Wilkinson Family Graduate Award in Environmental Studies at York University. This award was established by the Wilkinson Family several years ago and is very dear to their hearts.
This article originally appeared in YFile.