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In Memoriam: Michael Cross

Posted by Valerie Peck on October 23, 2019 in Alumni & Friends

Michael S. Cross, PhD, died in Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 18. Born in Toronto in 1938 he later entered the University of Toronto, graduating with a doctorate in 1968. Michael then taught at University of Calgary, Carleton University, and U. of T. before joining Dalhousie University’s History Department in 1975, where he remained until his retirement as full professor in 2002. While at Dalhousie, Michael excelled as a teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, a performance that in 1995 earned him the Alumni Association’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Michael’s research interests initially focused on the timber frontier of pre-Confederation eastern Ontario, but he had wide- ranging scholarly interests that included numerous publications in the field of modern labour history. Active as a researcher and writer well beyond retirement, in 2012 Michael published what is regarded as the definitive biography of Robert Baldwin, the complex personality that helped usher Canada into the age of responsible government.

Michael made a major contribution to the field of Canadian studies while directing a host of MA and PhD dissertations, with the result that several of his students today are prominent members of the Canadian historical profession. He also worked diligently as an editor of multiple historical publications, contributed to organizations such as the Canadian Historical Association, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Canada Council, all the while acting as reviewer for Acadiensis, the Canadian Historical Review, Histoire Sociale and other scholarly publications. At Dalhousie Michael served two terms as Chair of the Department of History as well being sometime Dean of Henson College and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. As well, Michael helped bring the union movement to the university and on two occasions functioned as chief negotiator for the Dalhousie Faculty Association.

Michael is survived by his wife Patricia DeMeo and children Rean, Sean, Patrick, Misty, and Andy. His family notes that Michael faced his final illness bravely, surrounded by people who loved him. "He was a lot of things: father, Canada’s coolest professor, towering intellect, social justice champion, grandfather, author, jokester, union organizer, music lover, great grandfather, basketball aficionado, science fiction nerd, and loving husband. No matter where his children were he always made time to be with them, showing unconditional love and kindness through challenging times and happy events, including his daughter’s gender transition. His somewhat curmudgeonly demeanour could always be melted by the presence of young children or Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Michael achieved what he set out to do in this world, which is more than can be said for many. It hurts deeply to see him go. He will be missed."

A memorial gathering will be held on December 6, 5:00 pm at the University Club pub. Donations in support of an undergraduate essay prize in Canadian or labour history, named in Michael’s honour, are being accepted at giving.dal.ca/MichaelCross