Honouring the life of Recreation and Leisure Studies founder Jack Pearse

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jack PearseFounding faculty member of Waterloo’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and beloved Warriors Golf Coach, Jack Pearse passed away on Wednesday, August 21 at the age of 87.  

Known as “Captain Summer Camp,” Jack Pearse’s career in children’s camping spanned almost seven decades, beginning in 1949 at the Charlottetown YMCA Camp on Prince Edward Island where he served as Director. After leaving Charlottetown, Jack spent nine years at the Ottawa YMCA Camp On-Da-Da-Waks, the largest YMCA camp in Canada. In 1961, he became owner and director of Camp Tawingo, an internationally renowned year-round camp for outdoor education and recreation. Through his work at Camp Tawingo, Jack cemented his global reputation as a pioneer in children’s camping.

In the late 60s, Pearse brought his talents to the University of Waterloo as the head coach of the golf program and teacher of golf in the Kinesiology skills program. His legendary contributions to the Warriors golf program, including his 'team' approach to the 'individual' sport of golf, have resulted in a spirit of co-operation and cohesiveness that continues to be evident after some 30 years.

Pearse also played a fundamental role in establishing the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo. Pearse proposed the Recreation and Leisure Studies degree to the Ministry of Education and once approved, he became one of three founding faculty members in the department. The introduction of Canada’s first recreation and leisure studies department at a university was a lengthy and complex process including the development of a unique program that combined knowledge of people, environment, and management to prepare graduates for careers in a variety of public and private organizations. 

Since then, the University of Waterloo’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies has been ranked the top North American university leisure studies department with respect to research productivity, and has been recognized in the top ten universities in the world for publications in selected tourism journals.

“Jack’s visionary outlook and depth of character helped lay the groundwork for the Faculty we are today,” says Susan Elliott, dean of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. “A true community builder, he understood both the value and science of human relationships, bringing together generations of campers, students, and athletes to learn from each other and improve themselves in the process.”

In 2012, Pearse’s contributions to the Department were celebrated with the establishment of the Recreation and Leisure Studies Founders Entrance Scholarship. The award, which recognizes demonstrated strong academic performance and contribution to the community through recreation involvement and leadership, will be presented for the first time this fall to a deserving first-year Recreation and Leisure Studies student.

In the words of Jack Pearse in a recent Toronto Star interview, "If a person feels like they matter and that you believe in them, the learning comes."

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