Passings: Professor Emeritus Anthony Richmond remembered for notable contributions to York U

Anthony (Tony) Richmond, professor emeritus at York University and one of the founders of York’s Department of Sociology, died on March 28 at the age of 91. A memorial service has taken place and his ashes will be scattered at his wife’s home in Anglesey, North Wales.

Richmond was born in Ilford, England. At the age of 18, he earned a scholarship to the London School of Economics (LSE), which he deferred until the end of the war. He joined the Friends Ambulance Unit in 1943 and served in hospitals and citizens’ advice bureaux in London, as ill health prevented him from serving abroad. After earning his BA at the LSE, Richmond began a master’s degree at Liverpool University, studying the city’s community of West Indian workers.

His first job was as a lecturer in social theory in the Department of Social Study at the University of Edinburgh, during which he published his first book, The Colour Problem (1955). The second edition of this book, published in 1961, included a new chapter on apartheid in South Africa, and brought him his first international recognition, stirring considerable controversy. His critical account had him and the book banned in South Africa until the country’s first free elections in 1994.

After a short spell at the Bristol College of Advanced Technology, he received his PhD from the University of London in 1965, and moved to Toronto with his wife, Freda, and young daughter, Catriona, and became a founding member of York’s Department of Sociology. Shortly afterward, he established the department’s graduate program and served as its first director. He also served as the director of York’s Institute of Behavioural Research (now the Institute of Social Research) from 1979 to 1983. In 1980, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was active in recruiting the next cohort of young sociologists to the department from Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

At York University, he pursued studies of immigration and immigration policy, ethno-cultural assimilation and the comparative study of immigrant and ethnic communities. He was the author of 10 books and 17 book-length monographs, over two dozen book chapters, more than 60 referred articles, and many other invited papers and commentaries. Richmond was the principal investigator of a number of externally funded major research projects and many minor ones. He was an informed and well-regarded lecturer and graduate supervisor.

Several graduate students entered sociology as his co-authors and others have spoken about his generosity and support. Little recognized was his unpretentious, consistent encouragement to women scholars in sociology. Many of his graduate students were women, who found him approachable and strongly encouraging. He made a point of inviting women scholars and researchers as guest lecturers to the department.

Richmond served on many departmental and university committees, especially in York’s formative years, including a President’s Task Force on the Role & Development of Research and the Faculty of Arts Academic Planning & Policy Committee. He retired in 1989. The Blishen-Richmond Award, named for two of the Department of Sociology’s distinguished retirees, is presented annually to outstanding honours sociology graduates.

Richmond was a deeply committed public intellectual. His work on immigration and immigrant assimilation influenced the revisions of Canadian federal immigration policy in the 1960s and early 1970s. He had a lifelong commitment to research on racism, publishing pioneering studies, and placing racialization at the centre of his research on immigrant and refugee diasporas. His last book, Global Apartheid: Refugees, Racism and the New World Order(1994), returned to themes that ran throughout his work, arguing that late 20th century mass migrations and refugee movements were being met with a form of global apartheid as North America, Europe and Australasia instituted repressive policies to restrain the movements, largely treating them as threats to their territorial integrity and privileged lifestyles. He was a founding member of the York Centre for Refugee Studies in which he actively participated after his formal retirement, publishing several articles, including his last in 2008 in the journal Refuge.

Richmond was known for his civility, lack of pretense, sense of fairness and commitment to scholarly life. His research productivity and his consideration and support of students and younger faculty contributed significantly to the emergence, growth and reputation of York’s Department of Sociology.