Packer, William A., 1919-1998

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Packer, William A., 1919-1998

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William (Viljo) August Packer was born in Toronto, Ontario on October 15, 1919 and passed away July 10, 1998.

He received his B.A. (Modern Languages) and M.A. (German Literature) degrees from the University of Toronto in 1941 and 1942 respectively, followed by his PhD. (German Literature) from Cornell University in 1950. Packer held a variety of teaching positions during his career including at Cornell University, the University of Michigan, United College in Manitoba (now the University of Winnipeg), Oakwood Collegiate Institute in Toronto, and at University College at the University of Toronto. Between 1943 and 1946, Packer interrupted his studies to serve in the Intelligence Corps in the Canadian Army, serving in both Canada and Europe. While a professor at United College, Packer was directly involved in what became colloquially known as the "Crowe case," which had its roots in a personal letter sent to Packer by his friend and colleague Harry S. Crowe. The letter was intercepted by the administration which used it as grounds to dismiss Crowe in 1958. This event, entrenched in a debate over academic freedom, and the subsequent investigations of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, eventually helped establish the association as an effective voice for the defence of university teachers' rights. Packer subsequently resigned in support of Crowe, one of 16 academics to do so. Following his resignation from United College in 1959, Packer worked as a high school teacher in Toronto and subsequently obtained a position at University of Toronto in 1963 where he remained until his retirement in 1984. In 2009, Packer was posthumously awarded the Milner Memorial Award for his involvement in the Crowe dispute. Packer married Katherine Helen Smith (1919-2006) in September 1941 and they had one child. Mrs. Packer was actively involved in librarianship and served as the dean at the Faculty of Library and Information Science, University of Toronto, from 1979 until her retirement in 1984.


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