Professor Lee Ann Fujii always signed her emails “LAF”.
“That was her,” says Professor Ed Schatz, chair of UTM’s Department of Political Science. “She always brought this big laugh that was impossible to miss.”
An inspiring and much-loved member of the UTM community, Fujii passed away suddenly on March 2, leaving a great sense of shock and loss across campus.
A highly respected scholar of political violence, ethnicity and race, African politics and field methods, Fujii was a strong advocate for diversity and strove to mentor young academics of colour. In 2016, she passionately defended the struggle to improve diversity amongst faculty members at the Institute for Advanced Studies Northeast Annual Conference.
“UTM has lost a real champion,” says Professor Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean. “Just recently, Lee Ann and I had a very fruitful conversation about addressing equity issues…Her work so far will inspire me.”
Fujii obtained her PhD in political science at George Washington University in 2006, and continued on to teach at the Washington, D.C. school until 2010. She joined U of T in 2011. Her work was widely published including two books, three book chapters and eight articles.
Fujii spent 2016 -17 as a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., where she was working on a new book on public violence. Her previous book, Killing Neighbors: Webs of violence in Rwanda, was published in 2009.
“Lee Ann was a passionate person in everything she did,” says Schatz. “She was very brave. She would go places and talk to people involved in the Rwandan genocide. She was passionate about her scholarship; she asked some really stomach-churning questions in her research that most of us wouldn’t be able to handle.”
“She also particularly took it as her purpose to mentor women and women of colour,” says Schatz. “If anyone approached her, she was happy to give her own perspective.”
Above all, says Schatz, he will miss the levity and character that Fujii brought to any situation. “She had a big, passionate personality that warmed every room she was in.”
A book of condolences is available in the Department of Political Science main office (Davis 3125) for students, staff, faculty or community members who wish to pay tribute.