Joseph Bevan Robertson Whitney, 1928 to 2016
We were deeply saddened by the death of Professor Emeritus Joseph Whitney at Princess Margaret Hospital on Sept. 2, 2016.
Energetic, well loved, full of projects and stories, optimistic, fun loving and a scholar, he will be sorely missed by his wife Diana Baxter, his children Michael, Kaaren (Rick), Joanna (Randy), Daniel (Dana), Sue and grandchildren Devin, Lukas, Elke, Holly, Emma and Katie as well as his many friends, relatives and students.
Joe was born in England, educated at Cambridge (MA) and University of Chicago (Phd). He came to the University of Toronto in 1969 where he finished his career as Chair of the Geography Department from 1988 to 1993. He was the first to introduce the study of China to the department and his research focused on the environment particularly soil erosion, waste management and rural energy use in China, Laos, Cambodia,Vietnam and the Sudan. Working with the Ford Foundation he established the Institute of the Environment in Khartoum in the Sudan and organized the first ‘women & the environment’ conferences there and in Vietnam. After retirement he was Co-ordinator of Urban Environmental Management at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok Thailand.
He is fondly remembered by his students in Hong Kong where he lived and taught for 12 years in his 20s. His teaching methods were exciting and challenging included taking students on work camps to assist Japan after the war. Similarly, through his influence and teaching he inspired many students to work in South East Asia and he led a number of projects in that region.
Always on the go, even after retirement Joe was engaged in academic projects and travel. He was chairing a committee to sponsor Syrian refugees for Senior College at Uof T, he recently completed a publication on the impact of Canadian funding to China and beyond, and he was researching the Whitney family connections in Japan in the 19thC. He fascinated friends and family with stories of his life, including meeting Ghandi and Sibelius as a youth and travelling around Scandinavia on a 25 pound scholarship at age 16.
He was a kind, humble and gentle man who was well liked for his humour and ability to relate to everyone. A precious memory is of him mounting his bicycle at age 87 and heading off to the university wearing his pink helmet.