Leo Panitch died on December 19, 2020 from pneumonia brought on by Covid – 19, contracted while in hospital being treated for cancer.
The ensuing outpouring of expressions of loss and tribute from socialist intellectuals and activists from around the world, from former students, as well as from many mainstream institutions, was testimony to his international reputation as a leading socialist scholar and public intellectual, as well as to the compelling nature of his character. He was a person of uncommon warmth and generosity.
Leo’s working – class origins were an important part of his intellectual formation. As he often said, his family’s experiences gave him a real sense of class inequities inherent in capitalism as well as a socialist sensibility. This empathy for working class people, and identification with their struggles to build a better life for themselves shaped his scholarship and indeed his life.
While he enjoyed a distinguished academic career, he was far from being ‘ivory tower’ academic. He sought a broad audience for his ideas and rarely turned down the opportunity to be seen or heard in the mass media, in the process becoming Canada’s foremost public socialist intellectual.
Beyond all of this, Leo was a charismatic individual with an unbridled passion for life. His interests ranged well beyond the scholarly and political spheres from the arts (especially jazz), to sports (notably football and the Bombers), to Jewish history and culture.
His family has been overwhelmed and moved by the outpouring of tributes to Leo and expressions of love. In response to the many inquiries as to where donations in his honour may be made we are excited to announce the Leo Panitch Scholarship at Merchants Corner. On Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg’s North End where Leo grew up, there is a vibrant centre of community life called Merchants Corner. It is the site of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Urban and Inner-city Studies. The relocation of this University program to the heart of North End Winnipeg to address many challenges facing the predominantly Indigenous people now living in the North End, is an innovative example of university- community engagement. It is here that the Leo Panitch Scholarship will be situated.
Leo himself had benefitted enormously from the educational opportunities made available in the North End, including the afterschool I.L. Peretz Folk School where instruction was in both Yiddish and English. Today, what is unique about Merchants Corner is the distinct Indigenous curriculum and its success in attracting students who traditionally would not have pursued higher education. This Scholarship at Merchants Corner will support students in the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies at Merchants Corner who have academic ability, financial need and who have experiential knowledge of the North End. The Scholarship will also enable senior students to gain work experience as community outreach workers. They will be paid to go to North End high schools and junior high schools to make students aware of the opportunity to attend university right in their neighbourhood.
This scholarship resonates with Leo’s Winnipeg roots, his academic orientation, and his commitment to education and social justice. We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to invite your support for this remarkable project in the memory of this great and creative socialist thinker and activist, who never forgot his origins in Winnipeg’s North End.
Please forward charitable donations by cheque to The Winnipeg Foundation
For the Leo Panitch Scholarship at Merchants Corner 1350 – One Lombard Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0X3, Canada
Or by credit card at: https://www.wpgfdn.org/LeoPanitch