Grant at the U of C .
courtesy Merlette Schnell

Philosophy professor passes on

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Philosophy professor Dr. Brian Grant passed away suddenly from a heart attack Mon., Oct. 29. He served as a professor at the University of Calgary for 39 years.

Grant came to Calgary after receiving a degree in mathematics from Cambridge University and a PhD in philosophy from the University of California Irvine.

Grant is survived by his wife Linda, daughter, son and three granddaughters.

"Brian was an extremely loved and popular teacher," said department of philosophy acting head Dr. Dennis McKerlie. "Among other things, he enjoyed teaching first-year courses. Not every teacher does enjoy that. He was willing to teach those courses even in the evening. Again, a lot of other teachers would say no to that kind of teaching schedule."

McKerlie said Grant had a very distinctive personality, noting he was frank and honest in both how he interacted with his colleagues in the department and how he interacted with the students in his courses.

"He wasn't the sort of academic who would want to become an administrator or to be interviewed on TV or to be on all kinds of high-powered committees at the university," said McKerlie. "With respect to committee work inside the department, he was always willing to do his share, but his real concern was with his students and with the ideas that he was putting into his writing and his books."

Grant was teaching two classes at the time of his death as well as supervising a number of thesis students.

McKerlie noted the difficulty in finding someone to teach a class that was built by someone else, but said that because of Grant, two individuals had volunteered for the job--a two-time former teacher's assistant of Grant's Dr. Alex Sager and former student Dr. Reid Buchanan.

"Professor Grant's tragic, sudden passing was completely unexpected and has caused great sadness amongst those who knew him," said Buchanan. "Brian was a brilliant philosopher and teacher, and I know his students adored him. I certainly did--I took many courses with Brian and he supervised my M.A. thesis many years ago. Brian was my mentor, and a great personal friend in later years. He was a wonderful human being and he will be greatly missed."

A memorial was held at the university for Grant Mon., Nov. 5. Speakers included colleagues and students--both past and present.

Fourth-year philosophy major and undergraduate philosophy club president Tyler McGraw was doing his honours thesis with Grant at the time of his passing and spoke at the memorial.

"He was very knowledgeable on whatever he talked about, but at the same time he was really wiling to let you explore your own ideas, or whatever you thought was important," said McGraw. "He just kind of demanded that you pursued them within reasonable argument. As a thesis advisor he was amazing."

McGraw asserted that Grant was able to balance his philosophical views and his humanistic side.

"I personally have a lot of issues dealing with philosophy and the rest of life," said McGraw. "I'm often tested about if these things that I'm trying to look into are actually important or not. As a philosopher you don't get a lot of money, you don't get a lot of attention, you don't get star status, so you like to think that what you're doing is because it's important. He reassured me that what I was doing was important and needed to be done."

Second-year philosophy major Fatima Zaghloul expressed similar sentiments about Grant. She spoke of a situation when a parent had confronted her about wasting her time doing philosophy.

"I remembered what Dr. Grant had said to me a year ago, which was 'never quit philosophy'," said Zaghloul. "That one sentence defined my future years. I have a feeling that these next three years will be for him as much as they will be for me because he believed in me. For a professor that doesn't even know me that well to just say something that huge--he probably didn't even know that it would define me but it did. He saw something in me and I want to work for the next three years to figure it out."

McKerlie noted Grant was not only a teacher but was very productive in terms of research and writing. He had written many books including The Condition of Madness, A Collection of Essays on Ludwig Wittgenstein as well as a book that will be published in Jan. titled This Dance of the Mind.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Calgary Drop-In Centre.




I took my Philosophy 201 class with Dr. Grant and I consider it one of the top educational experiences I've received at the U of C in the three years I've attended. I think he was even the prof who introduced me to Sartre. Dr. Grant was one of the most understanding and intelligent professors I've ever had the pleasure of being taught by and he will be sorely missed.