In Memoriam: Rodney White

Friday, July 6, 2012 2:20:00 AM

Rodney White

The School of the Environment mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Rodney White (Geography).  He was Director of the former Institute for Environmental Studies from 1994 to 2005 and helped found the Centre for Environment in 2005, which has since evolved to the School of the Environment.   He will be missed.

By Ian Burton

Vigorous and active professionally; always engaged in caring deeply for his loving family and greatly appreciated by his many colleagues, students and friends, esteemed Professor Emeritus Rodney (Rod) White died peacefully at St. Michael's hospital July 5th 2012 after a very short illness. He leaves his devoted wife Sue, daughters Kathryn and Alyson, sons-in-law Tim Laceby and Shaun Parker and grandchildren Isabelle and Oliver.

Born in Preston, Lancashire in 1943 Rodney was educated at the Universities of Oxford,
Pennsylvania State, and Bristol.  Before coming to Canada, Rodney held teaching posts at Northwestern University, (US), and the University of Ibadan (Nigeria). Arriving at the University of Toronto in 1974 Rodney quickly established himself as an internationally renowned authority in transdisciplinary and international research. This included a diverse range of topics in urban and environmental infrastructure and management, adaptation to climate change and environmental liability and the insurance industry. Later in his career he collaborated with others in research and teaching on risk analysis and environmental finance, and helped in the founding of the Centre for Environment, which has since become the School of the Environment. Rod undertook field work in Africa from Senegal, to Ghana and Kenya, as well as in China and Vietnam and had wide international experience. He was Professor of Geography from 1974, and served for 10 years as Director of the (then) Institute for Environmental Studies. In this role he had a reputation as a leader with a heart: always clear headed, focused, a good listener, attentive, brilliant with an elegant simplicity and with a deep concern and understanding for his students. 

A prolific author of books and scholarly papers Rodney leaves a strong and enduring legacy both within and well beyond the university community he so much enjoyed. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto online at  Please select Rodney White scholarship (or Environment Trust and indicate Rodney's name under additional information) to support his interest in enhancing the education of students in pursuing environmental initiatives.

A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, July 10 at 2.30 p.m. at St. James the Less, 635 Parliament Street in Toronto.  Flags will be flown at half-mast in his honour on the three University of Toronto campuses that day.

Dr. Ian Burton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography and former Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (1979-1984).

U of T flag at half-mast
Added photo: University of Toronto flag at half-mast on top of Simcoe Hall in Rodney's honour on Tuesday July 10, 2012.