Over the years, University of Victoria has seen many faces and bright minds pass through its academic halls, but only a few shun brighter than the others.
Now those same halls grow a little darker, after political scientist and UVic Associate Professor Emeritus Norman Ruff, 78, passed away last weekend, whose work inspired entire generations of young scholars at the university and led many others down career paths they hold to this day.
As a political scientist, his learned, intuitive commentary was a staple of news coverage and analysis during numerous elections, noted UVic President Jamie Cassels.
“Colleagues recall media reporters lining up outside his office for the opportunity to glean even the smallest nugget of incisive wisdom and well-informed opinion of happenings on the political front,” he said. “Dr. Ruff was one of our most prominent public intellectuals and he contributed to debate and understanding of political issues, explaining complex matters in ways that made sense to people from all walks of life.”
It has been said that Dr. Ruff graciously observed every side of the political spectrum with equal insight, accuracy and thought. Respected by all, Cassels said Ruff was held in the highest esteem by politicians of all stripes, even among those who were in the critical crosshairs.
“Perhaps the greatest tribute to Dr. Ruff is that many of his students graduated and went on to prominence, building meaningful and influential careers in public service and politics. He will long be remembered and missed by UVic and the greater community,” he said.
Ruff’s time with UVic began in July 1969, and he retired from the department of political science in June 2005, following a 36-year-career in teaching and research at the university. Hewas a respected political commentator and was widely quoted during provincial and federal elections.
At one point, he even hosted a weekly radio show, “In the Ruff,” on CKNW Radio in Vancouver.
Among many awards over a storied career, Ruff was recognized with the Pierre de Celles Award from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada in 2005, granted to “exceptionally effective and creative teachers.”
“I still feel quite overwhelmed,” Ruff said at the time of the award. “It’s really something. IPAC is the professional institute for public administrators across the country, and it’s an honour to receive this award. I just retired, so I’m missing not going back to teach. Teaching has always been extremely important to me, and my students recognize that.”
Much of Ruff’s teaching philosophy revolved around having respect for his students – as such, a scholarship was established in Ruff’s name by the department of political science, with the annual award recognizing the best undergraduate student in Canadian politics at UVic.
Beyond retirement, Ruff continued as an associate professor emeritus with UVic, giving of his time and skills for many years. Ruff’s academic credentials include BSc (Econ) Southampton; MA McMaster; PhD McGill.