Modern LanguagesWestern Arts and Humanities

In Memoriam

Professor Hanna Spencer (1913-2014)

Prof. Spencer (née Fischl) was born in Kladno, Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. She obtained her PhD in Slavic and Germanic Languages from the University of Prague, a rare feat for a woman in her time.

Prof. Spencer escaped the Nazis and their persecution of Jews by emigrating to Canada in 1939. She first worked here in Ontario in a glove factory that belonged to her uncle, but she soon put her education to use in teaching.  She married Elvins Spencer, an organic chemist, and had two children, Erica and Martin. The family settled in London Ontario in 1951 where Hanna was appointed as professor of German in the University of Western Ontario. She retired in 1979, but she continued her very active life as a pianist, a traveler and a tennis player, among other activities.

Besides her many publications on German literature, Hanna is well known for Hanna’s Diary 1938-1941, in which she chronicled her life as a Jew in her native Czechoslovakia and then as an immigrant in Canada. The book is memorable for its deep humanity.

Message from Joyce Bruhn de Garavito

I met Prof. Hanna Spencer around two years before her death at a reception in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. She left in me a strong impression of strength, a wonderful, vivacious, active woman. It was difficult to believe she was 98 at the time. We decided to celebrate her hundredth birthday a little before the correct date (December), and in September of 2013 the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures got together to rejoice in a life so well lived. We will miss her.

Message from Marjorie Ratcliffe

Professor Hanna Spencer and I briefly shared an office in 1989 when, although retired, she remained an active member of the University of Western Ontario community and I was a new recruit. Hanna and her husband Elvins, an Adjunct Professor and Government of Canada chemist, were near neighbours and we shared many ideals including their profound commitment to civil rights and anti-racism. I read her autobiography with deep interest and was moved by her love, as a young woman, for a very special young man from whom she was separated due to intolerance. Her early years in Canada also revealed a great deal about conditions in Canada at the time when “one was too many.” She did not dwell on her losses but went on to a brilliant marriage and university career. Hanna Spencer triumphed over racism and antifeminism and was a model to us all. I only wish she had written a second volume that would have covered the other fifty years of her long life.

Message from Jean Newman

Hanna Spencer was a much respected professor and a cherished friend to many.  Those of us who were colleagues  for decades will remember her enthusiasm,  personal warmth  and  spontaneous hospitality.  Her quick sense of humour and appreciation of the ironic were a delight.  We shall miss her deeply.

Prof. Weston Flint MA, PhD

Prof. Weston  Flint died peacefully, with family by his side, Sunday, April 28, 2013, age 90. He was the husband of Noma Flint, father of Robert (Jacqueline), Lucy, and Christopher (Athena), and grandfather of Emma, Grace, and Gray. Born in Boston, Wes was a star athlete first at Noble & Greenough School in Massachusetts, then as an IC4A hurdler/sprinter and captain of the Harvard track team. His schooling was interrupted in 1943-46 by service with General Patton's Third Army in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. After the war, he represented the First National Bank of Boston in Havana. When it became clear to him that he was not cut out to be a banker, he earned an MA and PhD in Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina and a stint at Dartmouth College. After eight years at Duke University, in 1965 he arrived at the University of Western Ontario to head the Department of Romance Languages at Talbot College. He treasured his twenty-year professional relationship with UWO, and was happy to return to Canada, where as a child he had spent summers at Camp Wabun on Lake Temagami. Regular international study and travel with his family included an appointment to direct the Middlebury College Study Abroad Program in Madrid and visits over two decades to his mother-in-law in Mexico. A lover of classical music and opera, he played the piano by ear and often burst into spontaneous harmonized song with his wife. Son of a publisher and himself an author of scholarly works, he had a lifelong passion for books, Harvard University, as well as the Boston Red Sox (and, often, the Blue Jays).

Message from Prof. Marjorie Ratcliffe:

For those of us who did know West Flint, his death in April comes as a surprise. I met him in the late sixties as an undergraduate through the Carleton University Spanish drama group when he and a group of UWO profs came to Ottawa to see our plays, and later at AATSP and ACH meetings. He and his wife Noma were a team in all they did, including the scholarship they produced on nineteenth-century Spanish narrative. I greatly enjoyed bumping into him in the UC hallways as he attended classes and continued learning well into retirement. He was a lovely and kind man who served as an example to me.

Message from Reuel Wilson

I came to know Wes Flint quite well during the 1970s. He was a real gentleman in the best sense of the word. As chairman of the (then) Spanish and Italian Department, he had the unenviable task of steering his oft-divided colleagues on an even course. He served them well, as a forthright and tactful administrator; I found him a loyal friend. In the end, Wes felt that the years of administrative responsibilities might have been spent more productively in scholarly pursuits. He opted for early retirement. I still miss him.