U of W mourns death of president emeritus

Henry Duckworth’s devotion to university sports inspires staff

Henry Duckworth, pictured here with his daughter, Jane Maksymiuk (left), and his wife Shirley (right), at the 2008 Rock Climb, died at 93.Henry Duckworth, pictured here with his daughter, Jane Maksymiuk (left), and his wife Shirley (right), at the 2008 Rock Climb, died at 93.

Duckworth was the one who started the first Great Rock Climb in 1972. This began an annual tradition where students race to scale The Rock of Remembrance, the large boulder just off Portage Avenue in front of Wesley Hall.

This was just one small way Duckworth impacted student life at the U of W.

His namesake, the Duckworth Centre, can now be viewed as a tribute to the man who was so devoted to university sports that he was a constant sight at sports events, said men’s basketball coach Dave Crook.

“Even as president, he was at almost every game, supporting the kids,” said Crook.

Crook fondly remembers the man who “always had time to talk.”

“The last time I spoke to him was at a game, where he appeared suddenly behind me as he wanted to shake my hand before we played the (University of Manitoba) Bisons in the Duckworth Challenge.”

Women’s volleyball coach Diane Scott also admired Duckworth.

“His whole life encompassed education and development, which epitomizes what a university is,” she said.

“He is part of the fabric of this university. He was family, for lack of a better word.”

While his name is most often associated with the Wesmen, Duckworth devoted much of his life to the study of physics.

Duckworth started at the university as a student of Wesley College, going on to teach physics at the United College.

Duckworth achieved international recognition for his studies involving atomic masses and nuclear stability.

“I used his textbook in my first year electricity class,” said Stephen Klassen, physics professor at the U of W. “He was a pioneer. The principles of mass spectroscopy (finding the weight of atoms) are still used in chemistry.”

Unlike the stereotypical image of scientists, Duckworth had an easy-going attitude.

“His jokes were always colourful and tied into issues that others wouldn’t dare to say,” Klassen said.

Duckworth, who was also an Officer of the Order of Canada, has many publications, including physics monographs, texts and an autobiography called One Version of the Facts: My Life in the Ivory Tower in 2000.

Published in Volume 63, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 15, 2009)

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