In Memoriam: Ronald Dunkley

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ron Dunkley
Ronald Garth Dunkley (C.M), aged 92, of Waterloo, Ontario, passed away on February 19, 2023. Dunkley was a long time professor in the Faculty of Mathematics, the founding director of the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC), and the co-creator of the Canadian Mathematics Competition. 

He was born January 20, 1931 in Windsor, Ontario, where he grew up. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1956, then taught at several high schools, including Kingsville District High School, where he met his wife, Dorothy (née Desjardins). In 1967, Ron joined the faculty of the new Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, where he spent most of his career, eventually becoming the Associate Dean and Director of the CEMC. 

Ron was one of four teachers who founded the District 10 Math Contest in 1962, along with Ed Anderson, Don Attridge, and Bill Nediger. These four, assisted by Ralph Stanton and Ken Fryer, started the Junior Mathematics Competition in 1965, which quickly became the Canadian Mathematics Competition. That first year, over 300 local students competed; now more than 250,000 students around the world register annually. Over the six decades that followed, contests were introduced to inspire, excite, and challenge students in many grades, starting with Grade 7. These contests not only involve students but are also responsible for developing and supporting a network of mathematics teachers around the world. They provide an environment that stimulates professional development and provides opportunities for mathematics teachers from schools and universities to meet and exchange ideas. 

Ron was a founding member of the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions and served as its president. He was proud to serve as the Deputy Leader of the Canadian Team for the International Math Olympiad (1986). 

Ron was recognized for his commitment to mathematics education at the highest levels in Canada. In 1996, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada for his work in developing mathematics contests in Canada. In addition, he received the Descartes Medal (1987), the Paul Erdos Award (1994), and the Adrien Pouliot Award for contributions to Mathematics Education (1997). 

He played brass instruments since he was a boy, performing with the Salvation Army Band, Weston Silver Band, and the University of Waterloo Symphony, as well as serving as chairman of the board of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. In his spare time, he enjoyed skiing, travelling, and playing hockey. He was a true Renaissance man. 

Ron was predeceased by his wife, Dorothy (2011). He is survived by his daughters, Susan (Darryl) and Michelle; grandchildren Richard, Robert, and William; loving partner, Carol (Cockfield); and sister, Joy Wendling. Missed by his canine buddies, Lady and Ollie. He was predeceased by his parents, William Sr. and Hazel, and brothers, William and Lorne. 

As a father and grandfather, he was a place of joy and refuge. He always had time to read stories; make music (famous for his garden hose solos); play crokinole, pool, hockey, or shuffleboard; swim in the lake (still game to jump off the dock at 90); provide clever clues to solve cryptic crosswords; and fish, hike, or work in the garden. Ron was ready to listen, help you figure out your next steps, and see you succeed and thrive. He was his family's biggest supporter. 

Recognizing that music and mathematics were two of Ron's greatest joys outside of his family and friends, in lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the Descartes Math Foundation or the CEMC, both at the University of Waterloo or the Choral Scholar Fund at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. Donations can be arranged through the funeral home

The family extends their heartfelt thanks to Ron's dear friend and whiskey companion, Don Cowan, who has been a tower of strength to the entire family. They also wish to thank Dr. Mike Saunders and his team, Dr. Hugh MacLeod, and the nursing staff in the emergency department at Grand River Hospital and at Freeport Palliative Care. 

The funeral service will be held at St. John the Evangelist Church, 23 Water St. N, Kitchener, Ontario, on Saturday, February 25, 2023, at 11 a.m., with Reverend Preston Parsons officiating. Service available online on Erb & Good Family Funeral Home's website

Visitation will be held at Erb & Good Family Funeral Home, 171 King Street S., Waterloo, Ontario, on Friday, February 24th, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.