By Doug Hallett
Janet Wardlaw, a significant contributor to the development of the University of Guelph and the first female to break into its executive ranks, has died at the age of 89.
Wardlaw, who died Friday, was responsible for “substantial changes, all done with grace and determination” at the U of G, said former local MP Bill Winegard, who was the U of G’s president from 1967 to 1975.
Wardlaw, a Toronto area native who earned a PhD in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University, joined the U of G in 1966 as a professor in the Department of Foods and Nutrition.
She was soon in charge of revamping the curriculum of the Macdonald Institute, which was seen as a leader in the home economics field. She played a key role in transforming it into the College of Family and Consumer Studies, a leader in its field in North America.
“I have always been convinced we would not have made superb changes in the program without Janet,” Winegard said in an interview Friday. “She had such a nice way of getting things done. I guess that was characteristic of Janet.”
She was a longtime close friend of the Winegard family, playing bridge, theatre-going and travelling with them, said Winegard, who continued to meet her regularly for coffee in recent years.
Wardlaw was the only female dean at the U of G when she was named to head the College of Family and Consumer Studies. After 15 years as dean, she became the first woman to break into the executive ranks at U of G by being named associate vice-president (academic) in 1984.
She also became the first female chair of the board of governors of the International Development Research Centre, which brings together researchers from developing nations and Canada. She continued to chair the IDRC for five years after retiring from the U of G in 1987.
In 1999, her lasting impact was celebrated when she received the Women of Distinction Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Guelph YMCA-YWCA.
Wardlaw, who majored in home economics while earning her BA from the University of Toronto, worked for several years as a nutritionist in Michigan and Toronto after earning a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Tennessee. She also worked as an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Household Science before coming to the U of G.
“Janet was a leader, an outstanding academic and administrator, a role model, a voice of reason, a caring sister and aunt, a steadfast friend, a caregiver to anyone who needed help, and a world traveller,” her obituary says.
Visitation will be at the Wall Custance Funeral Home, 206 Norfolk St., on Thursday Jan. 23 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Her funeral at 11 a.m. on Jan. 24 will be at Knox Presbyterian Church, 20 Quebec St., where she was a member and elder. Interment will be later at Toronto’s Parklawn Cemetery.
A tree will be planted in her memory in the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest in the University of Guelph Arboretum, with a dedication service to be held on Sept. 21 at 2:30 p.m.
By Doug Hallett