The History Department remembers Dr. Patrick Harrigan

Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Dr. Patrick Harrigan

We are saddened to announce that Dr. Patrick Harrigan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and former two-term chair in the Department of History, passed away on 13 May 2023.  Dr. Harrigan had a long and distinguished career at the University of Waterloo that began in 1969 and continued long after his regular retirement in 2007 as professor emeritus.  He was a leading authority on the history of modern France and of education, subjects upon which he published numerous books and scholarly articles.  His path-breaking books included School, State, and Society: The Growth of Elementary Schooling in Nineteenth-Century France and Mobility, Elites, and Education in French Society of the Second Empire, the latter of which was one of the first to use sophisticated statistical analysis in historical writing. Dr. Harrigan was extremely erudite, possessing an enormous and ever-expanding knowledge of European history. His quench for reading could hardly be slated, with four books considered a light week. 

In the last fifteen years of his career, he turned his attention to the history of sport, completing a book on the history of the Detroit Tigers baseball team and its social impact in Detroit, as well as numerous articles on the history of interuniversity sport in Canada.  The city of Detroit and baseball were lifelong passions for Dr. Harrigan, and the opportunity to combine the two was one of the joys of his professional career.  His commitment to scholarship was an inspiration for many of his colleagues, current chair Prof. Gorman recalls.

Dr. Harrigan was also a sought-after instructor who provided tremendous intellectual content to every lecture.  He was genuinely interested in others and was an engaging storyteller. “When I arrived at UW, Dr. Harrigan was chair of the History department,” recalls Prof. Bruce. “Although this administrative position was incredibly onerous, he still found the time to read almost every book that his colleagues in the department produced. He did so much less out of sense of obligation, than out of genuine curiosity about what we were all working on.”  Fiercely devoted to the department, Patrick demonstrated a profound loyalty equalled only by his Catholic faith and his support for the Detroit Tigers. 

His colleagues in the department remember him as both a brilliant scholar and as someone who had a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of animals.  One of his most important commitments was his involvement with the Kitchener-Waterloo Therapy Dog Program, offered through St. John Ambulance.  For years, Patrick would chauffeur his Pugs to local assisted-living facilities to spend time with the residents, filling their afternoons with joy.  He was fond of taking his many dogs with colleagues over the years to the local dog park, and cherished – and repeatedly visited – the Guelph Donkey Sanctuary, a serene farm where donkeys, mules, and hinnies – who’d been abused and neglected in their past lives – found a loving home.

Patrick had an enormous capacity for friendship. Passionate, highly intelligent, and an honest and wonderful friend, he left an indelible mark upon the History Department, his students, and many colleagues.  We miss him very much.