In Memoriam

Barbara Pell 1945-2009

Dr. Barbara Pell died on the 9th of March, 2009. Her field of research was Religion and Canadian Literature, but her love was the classroom. With passion and energy she sought to communicate to her students an appreciation and understanding of literature and the ability to write well. Barbara had a strong Christian faith and contributed much to Anglicanism in Canada. She was a pioneering spirit.

Barbara Pell completed her Ph.D. in Canadian literature at the University of Toronto in 1981. Dr. Pell's vision for a community of Christian scholars across Canada inspired her to co-found the Conference on Christianity and Literature Study Group in 1988, serving as Conference Chair for the past seventeen years. The study group meets annually at the Association of Canadian College and University teachers of English conference, allowing Christian scholars in the field to network and connect on a regular basis. A wide range of scholarly papers from a Christian perspective have been published as a result.

Dr. Pell excelled in her field of Canadian literature and published two major studies on Christian aspects of Canadian literature -Faith and Fiction: A Theological Critique of the Narrative Strategies of Hugh MacLennan and Morley Callaghan and A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler's ‘The Mountain and the Valley.' In addition, she wrote countless articles in the area of theological criticism of literature.

Dr. Pell was awarded a full professorship at Trinity Western University for outstanding achievement in her field of studies, for her commitment to the Christian mission of the university, and her advancement of Christian scholarship across the nation. Dr. Pell co-founded the Women's Faculty Caucus.

She was, in fact, the best-known Christian scholar of Canadian literature in the nation, and gained the respect from her peers for her trail-blazing work in this area of literature. She was invited, as a result, to contribute the major article on "Religion in Canadian Literature" to the Reader's Encyclopedia of Canadian Literature for the University of Toronto Press. She also served as an external reader for graduate theses at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, and was called upon to teach courses in Canadian literature at both Regent College and Western Washington University.

Dr. Pell also helped establish the popular Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Trinity Western University in 2005. The innovative program brings together professionals and future Ph.D.s to engage essential human questions, studying classic works in English, History, and Philosophy as a catalyst for fresh thinking from a Christian point of view.

While Dr. Pell demonstrated leadership at Trinity Western University, serving as the Chair of the English Department and as a member on many other committees, she also attended to the spiritual welfare of the broader community.

She made manifest the possibility that a Christian woman could be a successful wife, mother, scholar, and leader - regardless of the obstacles that are daily confronted. Throughout her life, she demonstrated the vision of a pioneering spirit in carving out for herself, and standing firm, in the field of theological criticism of literature, and in co-founding the Christianity and Literature Study Group. Her humanitarian spirit, Christian charity, selfless dedication to her profession, and leadership skills were recognized in recent years when she was awarded the Kenneth R. Davis Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006 and the Leading Women's Award in the category of Education, Training and Development in 2008.

Bob Burkinshaw, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, states: "Dr. Pell was an outstanding teacher whose classes, though very challenging, were consistently ranked at or near the top of all courses in the University. Outside the classroom, she gave countless hours to help students with their work, staying late most afternoons."

Holly Faith Nelson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, says, "Dr. Pell was an extraordinary teacher who inspired in her students a passion for literature and academic excellence. She drew out the potential in her students, rousing in them a desire to embark on an epistemological quest and she accompanied them on this journey, motivating them with her own insatiable thirst for knowledge and truth. Dr. Pell entered the classroom with a sense of delight, vitality, and commitment that never wavered for a moment during her career."

Dr. Barbara Pell is survived by her husband Archie, children Lisa (Mark) and James, and grandsons Andrew and Hugh.

A Service of Christian Burial will be held at 12 noon on Saturday, 21 March at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, 2010 Guilford Drive, Abbotsford, BC. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Dr. Barbara Pell Scholarship (No. 1816) at Trinity Western University (Attention: Darlene Heriot), 7600 Glover Road, Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1.


Last Updated: 2009-03-19
Author: Joan Van Dyck