BA (Bishop’s), MA, PhD (Queen’s)
Dr. Wendy Robbins died on 18 April 2017 after a brief illness — the result of complications following an aneurysm she suffered six days earlier. She is very much missed by her colleagues and students at UNB and remembered as a feminist activist, teacher, and scholar.
Wendy was the longest-serving member of the English department and a pioneer at UNB. She began her UNB career in 1984 and was the first woman to be promoted to full professor of English at our university. A scholar of Women’s Studies and Canadian literature, Dr. Robbins was co-founder of the Women’s Studies program (now Gender and Women’s Studies) in 1986 and served as co-ordinator of that program for many years. She was former editor of Studies in Canadian Literature, housed here at UNB, and former president of the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. She won the Allan P. Stuart Award for excellence in teaching, the highest award for teaching at UNB.
Wendy’s contributions to department meetings were often lively reports about activism that she was involved with outside of the university. At our last department meeting, for instance, she spoke enthusiastically about a well-attended meeting she had just been at with activists working to encourage more women to run for political office. She herself stood for the Liberal nomination in the Fredericton riding, was President of New Brunswick Women’s Liberal Commission, and was currently serving as the Vice-President, Atlantic for the National Women’s Liberal Commission. Through her involvement with the Liberal party, she particularly advocated for improved access to abortion in New Brunswick and at the national level lobbied for medically assisted dying legislation. She also kept the department informed over many years about—amongst other things—the important and ultimately successful Human Rights Complaint, on which she was one of the complainants, brought against Industry Canada in 2003 about gender equity in the Canada Research Chairs program. Wendy continued to track and report on the lack of gender parity in the program over the years, including contributing to a report to the Minister of Industry in 2012. Having brought her expertise in women’s and gender studies to multiple other organizations (Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)), she was, in 2007, awarded a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, which recognizes outstanding contributions in the advancement of equality for women in Canada.
Her current research project grew out of this long interest in gender, politics, and academia. She had recently completed the manuscript of a SSHRC-funded book about gender, campus fiction, and the academic memoir. In her recent Research Snapshot, she talked about how she was living this work, which she called her current passion. All of these efforts for gender equality, on behalf of students, faculty, and academics across Canada will be a lasting, living legacy.
Wendy’s children, Chimene and Haydon Keitner, have established the Wendy Robbins Empowerment Fund to support UNB students working to improve women's public participation and personal autonomy. Donations are welcome and may be made online through a link of her UNB memorial page: