Passings: Igor Kusyszyn was a passionate and dedicated professor

Igor Kusyszyn
Igor Kusyszyn

Igor Kusyszyn inspired students for nearly 50 years with his passion for teaching and his appetite for life.

Kusyszyn, who was a psychology professor at York University since 1967, died on Nov. 11 after a battle with cancer. He continued to teach until a week before his death.

A Celebration of Life for Kusyszyn will be held on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 1 to 4pm at the Heintzman House, 135 Baythorn Dr., Thornhill.

Kusyszyn was the popular teacher of the Psyc3350 creativity course – a course he pioneered that taught that creativity can be learned and applied. He focused his research on creativity, motivation and gambling, and was also a practicing clinical psychologist at the University.

“Dr. Kusyszyn loved teaching creativity,” says Barbara Thurston, the professor’s secretary for 29 years. “Students had to create a project and after their work was graded, I had an office full of interesting items. As the students would come by to pick up their work, they would often tell me how much they loved this course and Igor, as it had opened up their minds and a world of possibilities.”

He was the kind of man, says Thurston, who told his students he loved them – and they would tell him right back. He once shared with Thurston that at the beginning of the creativity course, he would tell his students “the most important thing they should get from this course was to make at least one good new friend for life”.

Kusyszyn was the author and co-author of four books under the pseudonym Lance Humble. He wrote The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book, which has sold more than 100,000 copies to date and even made a cameo in the blockbuster film The Hangover.

“He was a very intelligent man,” says Thurston, adding that one of his favourite hobbies was gambling for fun. Though he was a reluctant traveller, Kusyszyn went on 32 casino junkets to Las Vegas in the ’70s and ’80s, playing games run by the Mafia. He was later banned from some casinos, says Thurston, for winning too much money.

His interests were vast, and included classic films and sports, including tennis and curling. He was also collected gadgets and sports cards, loved to watch birds and write poetry. Kusyszyn was the owner of a racehorse, and was also a foster parent.

He was also passionate about justice, and matters of equality.

“He was a lovable, one-of-a-kind kind of guy,” says Thurston. “He marched to the beat of his own drum and was passionate about living life.”

Kusyszyn was born in Pidhaitsi, Ukraine in 1939. He survived both the Russian and Nazi invasions, as well as three years in a displaced persons’ camp. In 1948, his family came to Canada and settled in Hamilton, Ont. Kusyszyn spoke no English when he started Grade 1 that year.

He went on to graduate with a BA from McMaster University and a master’s and PhD from the Western University. He spent his entire academic career at York University.