Passings: Christopher Innes remembered as one of York’s stars

Christopher Innes arrived at York in 1969, and was the longest-serving active member in the Department of English. He made a profound and lasting difference during his time at the University. Innes died due to complications with ALS on June 19.

Christopher Innes

Innes was a Distinguished Research Professor, he held a senior Canada Research Chair and at the time of his death he was the incumbent of a York Research Chair. A world-renowned scholar, he remained energetically active and engaged in cutting-edge research until the very end of his life. As a department member and a citizen of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design, and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, he was involved with York University at all levels.

“It is difficult to imagine the collegium without his gracious and wise presence and his thoughtful contributions,” said Heather Campbell, associate professor and chair of the Department of English. “He has mentored his younger colleagues, and nurtured the careers of emerging scholars, with great generosity. Generations of graduate and undergraduate students will feel this loss as we, his colleagues and friends, do.”

After his arrival at York in 1969, Innes received quick recognition, not only for his teaching but also for his immense scholarship on European dramatic literature (much of it published by Cambridge University Press). He held many senior positions at the University ranging from the head of Graduate Faculty Council to a Canada Research Chair in Theatre and Performance.

Innes was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of Arts (U.K.), as well as a Killam Fellow. Since 2002, he held the Canada Research Chair in Performance and Culture, and as of 2016 he was a York Research Chair.

He has also held visiting professorships or fellowships at Corpus Christi and St. John’s Colleges, Cambridge; at Newcastle University, Australia; as well as Ohtani University, Japan; and the Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Germany.

He authored several books, translated into eight different languages, and over 130 articles on various aspects of modern drama. Having given papers at over 150 conferences, he developed a new form of public presentation together with his wife, singer Brigitte Bogar. They performed invited lectures in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and Denmark, as well as presenting plenaries at various international conferences.

A long-time member of the English Department, Innes taught in the Communication and Culture Program and also taught in Theatre Studies. He was a founding director of the master’s program in Interdisciplinary Studies and he was responsible for founding the graduate program in Theatre Studies together with York University Professor Don Rubin.

“Christopher was one of York’s stars,” said Rubin, former chair, Department of Theatre at York. “He was large in every way, from his height to his booming laugh. He seemed to be everywhere at York and was into everything.”

Rubin said Innes kept writing and working on projects, ranging from Caribbean carnivals to stage directing and design. Over the last year or two, he and his wife were working on a book about Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer.

“He will be genuinely missed by the whole York family and by all the departments he served – theatre, English, culture and communications. A major loss indeed,” said Rubin.

The funeral will be held Sunday, June 25 at St. Aidans Church, 70 Silver Birch Ave. in Toronto, with visitation at 2pm and a service at 3pm.

In lieu of flowers, please consider an online donation to the Christopher Innes Award Fund at York University. More details available online at giving.yorku.ca/inmemory.

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