George Semeluk (1924- 2011)

Dr. George Semeluk

Dr. George Semeluk

AUNBT remembers with gratitude the contributions and accomplishments of former AUNBT President (1973-74), Dr. George Semeluk, who passed away on Saturday, May 28, 2011. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, especially his daughter Catherine with whom he resided until his death at the age of 87. He is remembered by his colleagues with respect and affection, and as someone who made great but often unheralded contributions to UNB and the professoriate at large. The following is drawn from the recollections of several of his former colleagues:

George came from a Ukrainian coal-mining community in western Alberta, earned two PhDs (IIT Chicago and Cambridge) and worked as an industrial research chemist. He became a well established and respected professor of physical chemistry, one of the “grand old men” of the university. He collaborated in photochemistry with Izzy Unger, who had been his graduate student. The two of them worked as a team and travelled together to numerous conferences around the world (once travelling the Trans-Siberian railroad and shipping back from Vladivostock on the way home).

Dr. George Semeluk (left)

Dr. George Semeluk (left)

Even at the time most members did not realise how indispensable George was as a member of the bargaining team for the first collective agreement (along with Jon Thompson, Gerry Clarke, Harold Sharp and Allan Sharp) in 1979-80. George brought an unwavering sense of justice to the discussions, always focusing on whether the essential principles were being respected. He also had a calm dignity and a sense of common decency that allowed him to see the humanity of the team across the table, and to express it to the rest of his team. After that first round of bargaining was completed, George became a sort of “wise man” who was turned to for advice for many years to come.

Dr. George Semeluk

Dr. George Semeluk

When asked to become treasurer of FNBFA, George was initially reluctant, but as always he was ready to do his duty and he served for many years in that capacity. He saw FNBFA as an effective, and essential, voice for faculty.In recognition of his strong role in supporting and developing faculty activism and the FNBFA, the Association wanted to honour his contributions in a tangible way. It was decided that to establish a scholarship in his name would be the most appropriate recognition of his integrity, his affection for students and his scholarship. The George Semeluk Scholarship is intended to preserve the memory of his service and his role as a worthy model for students and faculty members.

George was a gentleman and scholar of unimpeachable integrity and a firm believer in the ideals of collegiality. It was George’s way to work quietly in the back ground and not to seek the limelight, but never to shrink when duty and a sense of what was fair, proper and just demanded action. He was one of those people that could be relied upon, “come hell or high water”. And he was often among the first to identify that hell or high water was approaching and needed to be confronted. He was unfailingly supportive, understanding, kind, reassuring, and encouraging about the trials and frustrations of trying to combine the roles of teacher, researcher, union activist, social critic and father together into a coherent whole. He will be greatly missed.