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Posthumous honour for former history head

A well-known Memorial faculty member who died in 1998 was posthumously recognized for his role in a seminal academic freedom case.

Dr. Gerald E. Panting was a history teacher at Memorial since 1959 and department head from 1966-76. On Nov. 28, 2009, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) presented the Milner Memorial Award to 16 academic staff at United College in Winnipeg, including Dr. Panting, who resigned to defend the academic freedom of a colleague who had been fired for writing a letter critical of the president of the institution in 1958.

The Milner Memorial Award was established by CAUT in 1969 in honour of James Milner, a former chairperson of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, to recognize a distinguished contribution to the cause of academic freedom.

The dismissal of historian Harry Crowe in 1958 became CAUT’s first academic freedom case. It served to define for CAUT the centrality of academic freedom to its mission and created the model for investigating allegations of violations of academic freedom that CAUT has used since.

For their courage and solidarity, the 16 earned CAUT’s Milner Memorial Award with a unanimous vote by council delegates adopting a recommendation from the association’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

Eleven individuals have received the award since its inception in 1969.
CAUT presented the awards in Ottawa to Hugh Makepeace, Roman March, Marian Martin, Kay Sigurjonsson, and John Warkentin. Richard Stingle was unable to accept his award in person.

Fred Harper, Michael Jaremko, Kenneth McNaught, Elizabeth Morrison, Michael Oliver, Viljo Packer, Gerald Panting, Stewart Reid, Margaret Stobie and Walter Young received posthumous awards. Most deceased award recipients had either a partner or one of their children present to receive the award in their honour.
Born in Winnipeg, Gerry Panting came to Newfoundland in 1959 to teach history at Memorial and served as department head from 1966 to 1976. He was co-founder of the Maritime History Group in 1971 and from 1976 he was one of three principal investigators in the group's Atlantic Shipping Project. He served as coordinator of the project from 1984-86. Mr. Panting passed away Dec. 3, 1998, in St. John’s.
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