In loving memory…




Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

“I will briefly tell you about Robin Neill, the husband and father we will treasure always.

He was born to parents who had immigrated as adults to northern Ontario from the north of Ireland (Robert Neill) and Scotland (Margaret Maguire Neill). Robin’s first blessing was the family into which he was born, consisting of an older brother Sam, a younger sister Marg whom he always called MR, and a younger brother Terry. Their parents raised their young family in Port Arthur, Ontario, during the Depression, and instilled in each child a strong sense of self and a strong sense of family identity. Their childhood was described by Marg as ‘a superior childhood,’ a dual reference to the fact that they grew up on the shores of Lake Superior, and the fact that they had an idyllic childhood. All of the young Neills achieved academic distinction and followed rewarding careers.

The Neill men were gifted with athletic abilities as well. Robin’s high school and intercollegiate sports were basketball, football, and middle-distance running. All his life he loved the physical activities of running, hiking, swimming, and snowshoeing, as well as grass cutting, leaf raking, snow shovelling, and house painting.

Academically, his field was political economy and his career (which lasted over 50 years at the Universities of Saskatchewan, Carleton, and Prince Edward Island) was an abiding joy to him, right up until the afternoon of his death. He enjoyed teaching university students and doing academic research equally.

Family meant so much to Robin. He was to Sharon a ‘best friend and life’s companion.’ His daughter Natalie provided him with the greatest pleasure he ever knew. A university professor herself, she calls him her mentor and role model, but he always maintained that he learned far more from her than he ever taught her. And his love for her husband Paul grew over the years as he watched their union grow and saw how happy they made each other.

Robin loved his life and the people in it. He touched the lives of many people and will be remembered.”

– Sharon Neill


~ He lived, and he was loved. ~

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”

– William Blake


32 thoughts on “In loving memory…

  1. Don’t be shy!! I’ll start things off here with a story I’ve told already on my facebook page:
    Robin wanted to get back into biking in a serious way when he was 60 years old. He bought the first of the three motorcycles that he would ride, dismantle, rebuild, and love until his last real ride when he was 80. He signed up for the recommended course on bike riding, but the instructor took him aside and said he would not teach him because he was too old, his reaction times were not good enough. Refusing to be deterred, Robin figured out that the next best way to learn to ride properly would be to join a motorcycle club and ride with experienced riders. He enjoyed the outings with the Ottawa Valley Touring Club so much, in particular the annual trips to Lake George, NY, for the Americade rally, and the trip to Tennessee. Every season, Robin won the club’s Iron Butt award for putting the most kilometres on his bike ~ always at least 10,000 km (6,214 miles).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robin wrote a few book reviews for me for RoPE. They were all fair-minded, perceptive and beautifully written–not a trace of pedantry, fussiness or quibbling in any of them. I knew him only through our exchanges regarding the reviews. I’m sorry he’s gone, and sorry I never had a chance to meet him.


    Book Review Editor, Review of Political Economy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary, Robin got your email asking him to review that last book on the afternoon he died. He was so much looking forward to its arrival in the mail and to reading it. When it arrived, I vowed to myself that I will read it (as a non-economist). Its very presence on the table is a reminder to me of how happy he was those last few hours.


  3. By noon on the first day this blog has been up, there were 59 visitors and 107 views. 70 views from Canada; 14 from the US; 5 from France; 4 from the Netherlands; 4 from Brazil; and 1-2 views each from 7 other countries, including the UK and Japan! This is so pleasing. Perhaps some will come back and post their thoughts.


      • I will never forget Robin’s kindness to me when I was a newly-minted Sociology instructor at UPEI. It was only the second year of UPEI and I was one of only 2 single female instructors under the age of 40 on campus. Robin took me under his wing and made sure I was introduced to everyone I needed to know to feel welcome. It is interesting to reflect on this because unlike my experiences at other universities, the economists at UPEI were really “cool” and very unlike the stereotypical dull folks as they are often portrayed.
        I left UPEI to pursue more graduate work at Carleton and much to my delight, Robin soon arrived as well. I am pleased to brag that I was the one who came closest to guessing Nat’s birth weight. When Sharon and Nat went off to Library school, I tried to return Robin’s kindness to me at UPEI by having him over often for “dinner with the girls”. He always entertained us with his wonderful repartee. Nat and Sharon, he missed you terribly while you were gone but as always, he “put on a good front”.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I studied under Robin as both a undergraduate and graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa. He taught me so much. During those times that I questioned my own intellectual abilities, his confidence in me and passion for economic history inspired me to work hard and to keep aiming higher.

    The highlight of my early years at Carleton was showing up at his office to discuss the history of economic thought, economic history, philosophy, and life. He was a special man, an intellectual rebel, and a friend. I wish that every student were as lucky as me to have such a thoughtful mentor.

    Thanks in no small part to Robin’s encouragement and guidance, I am now a professor myself.
    Each year I start my first-year history class (“The Making of Canada”) with a discussion of some of the most compelling interpretations of Canada’s development. Having talked about Harold Innis’s “Staple Thesis”, I move to Robin’s “Distinct Regional Economies Hypothesis”. My students’ eyes light up when I tell them about Robin’s grand theory (which they are surprised and happy to hear was formulated on the grounds of Carleton) of why we, as a nation, have often been regionally divided.

    Words cannot fully capture the respect that we, as economic and business historians, had for Robin. He will be greatly missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt, your words have touched me so deeply. I have printed them and put them on the fridge door for quiet moments of meditation. Robin did not suspect that he would leave behind an academic legacy, and would be truly surprised and not a little delighted to know that you are introducing him to new generations of scholars at Carleton U. When the talk at Happy Hour or social gatherings would turn as it often does to the need to protect our privacy on the internet, he would say (only partly in jest), “I just WISH people would read my stuff!“ He continued to follow your career and accomplishments with great interest, pride, and affection. I can recall the great scramble at our house when we were unable to vote for you in TVO’s Big Ideas, Best Lecturer Competition, and we tried to get Natalie in Toronto to cast a ballot for us!


  5. As a good friend of Natalie’s in our middle and high school days in Ottawa, I had the pleasure of spending time with Robin over the course of a number of years in the late 80’ and early 90’s. A lot of this time was either in the car as he generously chauffeured Natalie and I to our various “bohemian” destinations, or at the Neill residence when I had sleepovers there.
    When I think of Robin, I remember a spirited, playful, engaged and warm-hearted man. He not only endured our teenage whims, but seemed to take delight in them. He was always genuinely interested our ideas and activities, sometimes poking fun at us in light-hearted ways. There was always laughter when Robin was part of the scene. His love and adoration for Natalie was so evident to me, almost palpable at times.
    It has been many, many years since I’ve seen Robin and it deeply saddened me to receive the news of his passing. He was a bright spark (you can see it in his eyes in the photo at the top of this page) who lit up the lives and moments of many people, including me. I am so grateful to have known him for the time I did.
    Sharon and Natalie – my deepest sympathies to you. I hope you are taking comfort in your many happy memories of him. Love and warm hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jen, he loved driving (!) you & Natalie & around Ottawa, no matter what the hour!! He could jump out of a deep sleep when a phone call from her rang, and be dressed and into the car in no time. Often parents are relieved when teens get their driver`s licenses and the chauffeuring comes to an end. For Robin, it was the end of a chapter that he had enjoyed very much, a way to get to know Natalie & her young tribe in a relaxed setting. It was lovely to hear from you! Sharon


  6. Natalie I was so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I know he was your best friend and he adored your more than words. I remember being fascinated by your father. He was so accomplished and achieved so much yet so humble. I remember him being so present when we were growing up. I remember him always being there in the silver Buick when we missed our last bus. I loved his little quirks like how he did not like all things ordinary. I know you have so many beautiful memories, he truly was a great father and a great gift to all who had the opportunity to experience his spirit. HUGS


  7. To: Sharon Neill

    Sharon Neill,
    Mark Ogley replied to your Tweet!

    Mark Ogley @mogley

    Robin Neill was one of my favourite profs while getting my under graduate degree. @knifedup @UPEI – 11 Jul
    More Tweets
    Sharon Neill @MaritimesSharon

    @mogley @knifedup @UPEI
    Mark, just found this today. Robin died on June 29th, 2014. Memories to:… @MaritimesSharon – 17 Jul

    Mark Ogley @mogley
    Follow Follow

    @MaritimesSharon I am very sad to hear this. He was a great man who had a profound impact on my life. My condolences to you and your family.

    01:06 PM – 18 Jul 14


  8. July-03-14
    Dear Sharon: I was very saddened when I heard of Robin’s passing in today’s Campus Notices. I always enjoyed running into Robin on campus or around town and his witty comments and interactions. He brings back pleasant memories. I’m sure you will miss him terribly, but am sure wonderful memories will sustain you. My thoughts are with you. John
    John Burka,
    New Minas, Nova Scotia
    Professor Neill taught me in the early 70’s and his sense of humour, obvious interest in the material and his students helped convince me to major in Economics. He positively shaped the lives of many during his career.
    Gord Baldwin,
    Ottawa, Ontario


  9. Dear Sharon and Natalie, please know that you have both been in my thoughts since the passing of your beloved husband and Dad. I remember the profound love and admiration and mutual respect that was obvious in your household. I cherish the many great memories I have of being a young guest in your home. I admired the way Natalie was treated like an adult (we met at 15 or 16 years of age). I also remember that Robin walked to and from campus from home which was an impressive distance!
    Big hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny, thank you. When I saw my uncle Terry at the time of the wake and funeral he reminded me of the time he was visiting Ottawa and you stopped him on the street (or was it when you were working at the Chateau L.?) and said, ‘you must be Robin Neill’s brother!” He still thinks that’s amazing, as do I. (Although the resemblance is very strong.) Love you xo


    • Jen, ((Hugs)). I fully understand why you are taking a leave of absence from Facebook but I miss seeing your little man, and reading your news. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. Sharon


  10. Wayne Peters • 10 days ago

    My deepest condolences, Sharon. I’ve always enjoyed my chats over the years with Robin.

    Leon • 16 days ago

    Very sorry for your loss, Sharon. Feeling sad with you.

    Winnie Robbins • 16 days ago

    Condolences Sharon.

    Kathy Stuart • 16 days ago

    My condolences to Sharon and family. Prof. Neill will be fondly remembered by those of us who valued his wisdom and contribution to academic writing.


  11. Recent, fairly large-scale immigration to Prince Edward Island from China has resulted in an influx of new students at UPEI. They were drawn to the Economics Department, and some of Robin’s classes had a large majority of students who were Chinese. Introductory Micro and Macro caused no problems on that score, but he completely re-vamped his Canadian Economic Development course to accommodate the new arrivals. In typical Robin-fashion, he became absorbed in economic development in China, and taught a new course paralleling the two. He tried especially hard to remember the names of his new students and this amused me because Robin was always a “people person” with a very poor memory for names and faces!


  12. Dear Sharon, Natalie & family,

    Being winter neighbors living in Elliott Park, PEI, it was always such a pleasure to meet up with Robin and my daily walks now seem to be sadly empty of his kindly presence.. Seeing the familiar figure of Robin walking Chloe, or even before Chloe’s time meeting him around the Park or in the yard brought my husband and I much enjoyment as Robin always had time to listen actively and seemed genuinly interested in our daily doings however mundane they were. What I especially liked about Robin is that he was genuine and enjoyed just being himself, taking an interest in the world around us all but not trying to change it but rather living in harmony with it. He seemed to have found balance and happiness in this life and that is more than likely from his happy family life, especially in the figures of you Sharon and his reveered daughter, Natalie . We will miss this noble man from our midst.
    Suzanne and Cliff

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzanne & Cliff, We have felt equally fortunate in our next door neighbours! I am recalling fondly the day we four met, and the wonderful feeling we came away with that things were going to go well for us in our “forever home”. We’ve shared high adventures, such as the time when we saw that large raccoon jump into your waste bin and pull the lid down on himself, & the day said raccoon raided our birdhouse and your chickadee nest and killed all of the fledglings. Robin always carried on a surreptitious lawn mowing “competition” with you, Cliff. If he saw that you had cut your grass, nothing would do but that ours be cut right away! It pained him terribly this spring when keeping up with the lawn became too difficult for him. How pleased he was when we were able to hire Kevin to keep things trimmed. Thank you for your recollections, and for being such good neighbours, birders, and friends. Sharon


  13. Written by Robin’s niece, Ashley, the week Robin died:

    Rarely have I met someone so accomplished
    Or educated, with as much to brag about as you
    But you are the sole man so endowed whom
    I have ever seen hold it so humbly
    Never afraid to bring your expertise to the forefront, yet waiting always to be asked

    Never backing down from doing what must be done, but not one to draw attention to
    doing it
    Even to the last minutes of your life, always using your wisdom to aid others along
    I’ll never forget the man I knew you as, even though there is much more still to learn of you
    Legacy goes on even after you cannot, and yours is a great legacy.
    Loved by so many ~ yet another accomplishment you will keep so humbly to yourself.

    Thank you, Ashley. ((Hugs))


  14. I will greatly miss Robin Neill, a warm hearted man and a fine scholar of the history of Canadian
    economic thought, who was a good friend ever since I was a junior colleague at Carleton, long
    ago in 1982-87. Here is something that combines what I wrote about Robin for the SHOE list
    (the Societies for the History of Economics e-mail list) and for the August 2014 Canadian
    Economics Association Newsletter:

    The Canadian economic historian and historian of Canadian economic thought Robin Neill
    passed away of congestive heart failure at his summer cottage at Rocky Point, PEI, on June 29
    at the age of 82. He remained active in research until the very afternoon of his passing, and
    continued teaching, as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, until
    mid-February. He was Professor Emeritus of Economics at Carleton University (where he
    taught from 1972 to 1996, full professor from 1990), and taught four or five courses a year at
    UPEI from 1996-97 until this year. He previously taught at the University of Saskatchewan and
    its St. Thomas More College (1960-69, associate professor from 1968). He was an Associate
    Professor at UPEI from 1970 to 1972, during which time he was the founding president of the
    Atlantic Canada Economic Association, which later made him a lifetime member.

    Robin Neill graduated from the University of Toronto and Duke University, where his PhD thesis
    on the Canadian economics of Harold Innis was supervised by Joseph Spengler. Robin wrote
    two books, A New Theory of Value: The Canadian Economics of H. A. Innis (Toronto: University
    of Toronto Press, 1972) and A History of Canadian Economic Thought (London and New York:
    Routledge, 1991). He published six articles in the Journal of Canadian Studies, and other
    articles in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Economic History, Journal
    of Economic Issues, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Research in History of
    Economic Thought and Methodology, and Studies in Political Economy. Together with Gilles
    Paquet, Robin wrote the article on Canadian economic thought before 1967 for the special issue
    of the Canadian Journal of Economics (1993) marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the
    journal. Robin wrote entries on thirteen Canadian economists for the Biographical Dictionary of
    American Economists (2006), and he and I coauthored the article “Canada, economics in” for
    the second edition of The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics: From 2001 Robin chaired
    the Research Advisory Board of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. In 1974-75, Robin
    wrote a report for the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada about the economics of
    publishing in Canada. The report drew attention to the near-monopoly situation of Canadian
    academic publishing; it was never published, nor did Robin ever again publish with the
    University of Toronto Press.

    Robert Dimand

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Bob, the two of you certainly did go back a long way and the Robin`s projects that you had a hand in were always so interesting to me. You really stretched him sometimes! A memorable one that, alas, did not get off the ground would have involved him brushing off his ecclesiastical Latin!! For what it is worth, when things got particularly sticky on the home front, I would always say, “Robin, say something in Latin!“


  15. I heard today from Isabel Anderson Langford with whom Robin had team-taught at the University of Saskatchewan in the ’60s. Their partnership was successful, and a warm personal friendship developed which lasted until he died. Isabel wrote:

    “I will miss Robin (as I see Guests to his Legacy web page are saying too about their conversations with him).
    Robin and I had similar approaches to our studies of Canadian economic history and development. Somehow it was always about our Canadian Confederation, what Canadians of our time wanted to know about. He approached it as a graduate of the UofT of his time would approach it, and I as a student of the late Professor VC Fowke of the UofS would approach it … both could be synchronized into useful ideas about what we had learned and what policy makers one day soon would need and want to know.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s always with a smile that I remember Robin Neill. He was a leading Canadian economic history prof in the mid-1970s. I was a grad student at Carleton, far from home. His kind, thoughtful encouragement buoyed and inspired me as I set out on my career. I was always and will always be grateful for his support, and I was sad to learn of his death. He was such a good man.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is – or would have been – Dad’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday, Dad. I love you and miss you. There was a period when I was little when you and I ordered Black Forest Cake whenever it was listed on a dessert menu, so we could compare how it was made at different restaurants. (No two Black Forest Cakes are ever quite the same.) I thought Black Forest Cake was very exotic! I haven’t had it in years, but I will order it next time I see it on a menu. – Natalie


    • Wonderful, Natalie. If you weren’t so busy these months, I would suggest that you try to make the world’s best Black Forest Cake. That would be a great tribute! Mom


  18. Hi Sharon – I just found out about Robin’s passing. I was his secretary at St. Patrick’s College at Carleton – He was an amazing person and lived his life to the fullest – I couldn’t believe it when I ran in to him many years ago and he told me about his biking escapades – lol. My sympathies to both you and Natalie – whom I will always remember as “Buffy” – all the best …

    Liked by 1 person

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