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Photo of Ernest Sirluck.
Ernest Sirluck. Photo by Rick O'Brien

In Memoriam: Ernest Sirluck

Renowned Milton scholar spearheaded plan to build Robarts Library

If you’ve ever found just the book you needed at Robarts, thank Ernest Sirluck. During his eight years at U of T in the 60s, the then-dean of the School of Graduate Studies spearheaded an ambitious 50-year-plan for the university’s library system that included acquiring five million books – and building the giant concrete structure to shelve them all. He also oversaw a doubling of the number of grad students admitted to the university.

Sirluck grew up in Manitoba and came to U of T during the Second World War for graduate school, where he became the first Jewish person ever appointed to teach English at a Canadian university. (Mid-appointment, he took a break to serve in France with Canadian military intelligence.) His U of T dissertation launched his reputation, later honed at the University of Chicago, as a respected scholar of Milton. After a stint as president of the University of Manitoba, Sirluck returned to Toronto. He died on September 4 at age 95. “Not only a great scholar and gifted administrator, he was a man of remarkable courage and the greatest integrity,” said Paul Stevens, currently acting chair of the English department.

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