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Obituary: Former Dean, Francess Halpenny (1919 – 2017)

Submitted on Tuesday, January 09, 2018

“Her life was a world of words: spoken, written, sung, and made into books which she lived and loved every day.”

So reads the last line of Francess Halpenny’s obituary, crafted by her family in whose presence she died on Christmas Day 2017.

A former Dean of the Faculty of Library Science (now the Faculty of Information) from 1972 to 1978, Halpenny spent almost all her working life at the University of Toronto. Her stint as Dean also overlapped with the period (1969 to 1988) she was general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, the most ambitious multi-volume bilingual publishing project in Canada at the time.

Shortly after graduating from University College in 1940 and taking up a job at U of T Press, Halpenny enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force where she served as a meteorological observer in Newfoundland and Prince Edward island.

A distinguished scholar and prolific author, she held leadership positions with U of T Press and the National Library, and was the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including the Canada Council’s Molson Prize for distinguished contribution to the country’s cultural and intellectual heritage. The Royal Society of Canada made her a Fellow in 1977 and eleven Canadian universities awarded her honorary degrees.

Halpenny was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979 and Companion in 1984.

“She was a truly remarkable woman,” says the current Dean of the Faculty of Information, Wendy Duff.

A memorial service is planned for March.

Read more about the life of Francess Georgina Halpenny