Passings: Robert Simmons


Robert E. Simmons, a former York University professor and Chair of the English department, passed away on May 19 at the age of 87.

Robert Simmons
Robert Simmons

Simmons joined York U in 1966 as a professor of English at the then newly formed Glendon College. He did so after obtaining his master’s of philosophy degree from the University of Toronto, an experience that included classes with renowned philosopher Marshall McLuhan and literary critic Northrop Frye, which intensified his lifelong love of literature, learning and writing.

During his time at York U – where he remained until his retirement in 2000 – Simmons taught English literature, linguistics and creative writing. He also co-authored the linguistics textbook The Language of Literature and the geography textbook Urban Canada.

Being a longtime fan of William Blake – whose poetry and vision of the human condition deeply affected Simmons and influenced his own writing and creative work – led Simmons to publish a book of literary criticism called A New Interpretation of Blake’s Minor Prophecies.

Even after his time in academia, Simmons continued to pursue teaching and literature, offering weekly creative writing classes at his local library in Chesley, Ont., and editing local authors’ works.

A celebration of life will be held on Aug. 13 in Guelph, Ont., at the Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home’s Dublin Chapel. All are welcome to attend. RSVP to Barb Simmons at

Donations in the late professor’s memory can be made to Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington.