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The passing of Professor Emeritus Robert Murdie (May 8, 1939 - March 11, 2024)

The passing of Professor Emeritus Robert Murdie (May 8, 1939 - March 11, 2024)

The EUC community mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Murdie.  Bob spent his almost his entire career with the Department of Geography at York, and was a leading figure in Canadian urban and social geography, focusing especially on housing and immigration studies. He was also a dedicated teacher and graduate supervisor, and a thoughtful and conscientious colleague.  

Bob’s obituary in the Globe and Mail is reprinted below, along with some tribute and reflections from colleagues. 

Bob Murdie
Picture: Bob Murdie, 2016
Picture Credit: Philip Kelly

From the Globe and Mail (March 16th, 2024)

Robert "Bob" Murdie passed away peacefully at home with his wife Wendy close at his side. He is survived by his beloved wife, his daughters Susan (Ian Brereton) and Heather (Sean McKenna), and five grandchildren Jakob, Kaiya, Amy, Nathan, and Emily, who always brought a smile to his face. He will be sorely missed by family and friends. Born in Toronto and raised in Kitchener, Bob completed his undergraduate degree in Geography at Waterloo Lutheran University. After completing his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago he began teaching in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Waterloo. In 1969, Bob moved to Toronto and joined the Geography Department at York University as an Urban Geographer where he remained until his retirement. His research in social housing and immigration provided insight into the immigrant housing experience in Canada and the challenges experienced by newcomers. These research interests led him to travel to various cities in Europe and to spend time as a Guest Researcher in Sweden and Amsterdam. Making good friends around the world, he was well respected and appreciated by both colleagues and students. Mentoring and encouraging his graduate students was something he especially enjoyed. During retirement he spent time travelling and at the family cottage at Point Clark. He enjoyed talking politics at any level but was particularly passionate about municipal politics.  

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William (Bill) Found: 

It was my great privilege to be one of Bob´s colleagues at York University for over 50 years. He was a wonderful friend, a keen researcher, and a superb teacher. He enriched the lives of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in the Geography Department. His wisdom and enthusiastic contribution to decision-making within the Department were invaluable. A dedicated family man, Bob served as a conscientious model for his friends and colleagues; and he will be greatly missed. 

John Urquhart Marshall: 

His work on social and economic indicators within the various neighbourhoods of metropolitan Toronto placed him squarely in the vanguard among those who laboured to bring depth and clarity to our understanding of the spatial dynamics of city growth. Equally valuable are his later contributions regarding the impact of municipal policies upon housing development and immigrant absorption. In short, Bob was an academic all-rounder, notable for outstanding work both in his teaching and in his research. It was an honour to have known him as a professional colleague, and I extend sincere condolences to Wendy and to all members of his family as they mourn his passing. I will always remember Bob with respect and with admiration. 

Bryan Massam: 

It was my privilege to be a long-time colleague of Bob at York University. Over many years we shared the teaching of an undergraduate course on Urban Planning. Kind, generous with his time, conscientious - a GOOD man in my book whose decency will be a fine legacy. May he rest in peace.  

Valerie Preston: 

Bob made seminal contributions to social geography, starting with his doctoral dissertation. As a beginning graduate student, I was introduced to Bob’s work in a very popular textbook by M. Yeates and B. Garner, The North American City, where his dissertation research about the social ecology of Toronto was cited in detail. It was an extraordinary achievement since most of the book concentrated on US cities. Bob’ s research went from strength to strength. In addition to a continuing interest in the changing social geography of Toronto and other Canadian cities that culminated in the Neighbourhood Change project with David Hulchanski, he did extraordinary research about urban housing markets. In 1992, he was one of the first to call attention to growing waiting lists for Toronto social housing as tenants could not afford alternative rental or owned accommodation and stayed longer than any policymaker had anticipated. He did seminal research about the housing trajectories of immigrants and refugees that is incredibly timely right now. Indeed, during my job interview at York, Bob and I discussed a paper he had just published about the various ways Portuguese and Italian immigrants were financing homeownership despite failing to qualify for mortgages from Canadian banks. The paper is still cited today.  Bob was a great collaborator and the list of his collaborators includes a roster of remarkable people as well as many of his students. Personally, I will always be grateful for our collaboration which I enjoyed and from which I learned a lot.