Professor Emeritus Peter Silcox smoking a pipe and holding a fish by the gills.

UTM remembers Professor Emeritus Peter Silcox

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 11:47am
Blake Eligh

U of T alumnus, administrator and professor emeritus of political science Peter Silcox has died. Born in Dudley, England, Silcox studied at the University of Bristol and the London School of Economics before accepting a Commonwealth Scholarship to study at U of T in 1961. The move launched what became a forty-year career with the university when Silcox accepted a faculty position with the university in 1964, teaching British and Canadian politics at U of T’s St. George and Erindale College campuses until his retirement in 2003.

Silcox was “well-fitted” to teach British politics, recalled Erindale College alumnus John Switzer, who died in 2018. Switzer recounted the classic Silcox classroom experience in an article celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the campus, writing, “He stoked and smoked his bent Peterson pipe all through class. It was like sitting in a pub somewhere in London, with the subject, the accent and the tobacco smell all contributing to a multi-sensory ambience. Peter was so engaged in his material he regularly lost track of time and had to wrap up as we were rising to leave for our next lecture.”

Professor of political science Nelson Wiseman remembers his former colleague as an “administrator extraordinaire” noting that the emeritus professor served the university in many senior leadership positions, including principal of Woodsworth College from 1977 to 1984 and associate dean and vice-principal at Erindale College, now U of T Mississauga, from 1988 to 1993. “Former principal Paul Fox, the one-time dean of Canadian political studies, said that Silcox ‘sat on more committees than anyone at the university,’” Wiseman recalls.  “In the early 1970s, Silcox served as the department’s undergraduate director when it included economics and commerce and had a total of 162 instructors.” Silcox was the President’s representative at Governing Council and served on two presidential search committees.

Peter Silcox looks on as Toronto mayor David Crombie speaks at the tenth anniversary celebrations for Woodsworth College.Professor Peter Silcox looks on as MP and former mayor of Toronto David Crombie speaks at the tenth anniversary celebrations for Woodsworth College.

Silcox had particular expertise in urban and provincial affairs, including local government reform. In the early 1970s, Silcox was appointed by the Ontario government to develop a strategy for new boundaries and greater regional co-operation in Windsor, Essex and Pelee Island in Southern Ontario. Released in 1976, the Essex County Restructuring Study recommended amalgamating 21 municipalities into eight. The province ultimately shelved the recommendations however, two decades later, the “Silcox Report” was resurrected to become the main policy foundation for the 1998 restructuring of Essex County.

Silcox retired in 2003 after four decades with the university. He leaves his wife, Antonia Silcox; son and professor of philosophy Mark Silcox of the University of Central Oklahoma; and daughter, professor of anthropology and Vice-Dean Graduate Mary Silcox, of U of T’s Scarborough campus. A celebration of life will be held at the Simple Alternative Funeral Centre at 1535 South Gateway Road, Mississauga on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Woodsworth College Students’ Association – Peter Silcox Scholarship.