Commemoration ceremony for Blaine Baker
Friday, 7 September 2018, at 14:00
Birks Heritage Chapel
3520 University Street
We share here messages, thoughts and memories of our friend, Professor Emeritus G. Blaine Baker, who passed in early July 2018.
"I too mourn the loss of Blaine Baker: cherished professor and mentor, beloved colleague, and treasured friend."
"Blaine has meant so much to me over the years that I have difficulty saying anything that seems at all adequate. But let me say one thing that both conveys much about who he was and expresses an ethic that he did his best to instill in those of us who are his students.
"He had a profound conviction that being a lawyer carried with it a responsibility to care about one’s society and to do whatever one could to make it better. Being a lawyer is, in a very real way, a public office, one that carries with it obligations of service in the public interest, even if one is acting for private parties. Blaine drew our attention to the constructive role that lawyers play, continually remaking their society through the exercise of their profession. He celebrated their actions in public life and in government service as a high expression of that role. And he sought to instill in his students, and to express in his life, the virtues appropriate to that role."
"I shall miss his acute commentaries on the political events of the day –
sometimes wickedly funny. I shall miss his passion for and the demands he
made upon legal education. I shall miss him."
– Professor Jeremy Webber, BCL'84, LLB'84, University of Victoria
"Blaine was a few years ahead of me at law school, and I have known him since he was just finishing grad school, many years ago. He was always impressive, 'scholarly' in the best sense. Since then he continued to grow as a researcher, writer and editor. As I said on Twitter, he became a walking encyclopedia of Canadian legal history. What didn't change was his zeal for knowledge about the subject, and his commitment to share with others and assist in what he seemed to think of of as the group project of legal history."
"He was a mentor to me, as to so many others, and a good friend. We were phone buddies (on my landline!) and I smiled in recognition at the previous posting that said he always started 'Blaine Baker here. What am I interrupting?' He also always closed with 'is there anything I can do for you?'. We spoke about once a fortnight, and I was looking forward to continuing our ongoing discussion about legal history, cottaging, the church, the legal profession, and legal issues generally, when I was told of his very sudden passing. I miss him, and am very sorry I cannot attend this memorial as I had planned to do."
– Mary Stokes, Osgoode Hall
"I was walking through McGill today on a visit to Montreal and I decided to look up Professor Baker, who served as one of my instructors during my first year at the University of Chicago Law School in 1981. I was saddened to learn of his passing. I very much enjoyed his teaching and mentoring as a first year law student. I especially enjoyed our conversations about Canada and the United States over a few beers. Great Professor and human being."
– Rich Weinwroth
"Professor Baker was one of the more memorable of my McGill Law professors, and is central to many of my memories of law school. He was always generous with his time, and interested in both sharing with and learning from his students. I am grateful that I was able to get to know him as a friend. I was very sad to learn of his death. He is already missed."
– Denis Frawley, BCL'96, LLB'96
"Professor Baker was a model scholar who combined encyclopedic knowledge with epistemic humility. He was also very generous with his time, always willing to share his insights with curious students. May his memory and life's work continue to inspire."
– Patrick Garon-Sayegh, BCL/LLB'10, LLM'16
"My very first class at McGill was Contracts with Professor Baker, and he was brilliant, insightful and engaging from day one. As I learned more about him, I discovered that outside the classroom, he was generous, wise and kind to colleagues and students alike. He was a both a mad scientist and a favorite uncle, and made my experience at McGill more interesting and enlightening with every interaction. I will miss him very much."
– Dean Taylor, BCL'01, LLB'01
"Professor Baker's irreverence and genuine delight at the topics he taught and the anecdotes he shared always shone through. He was a thoughtful man and a generous teacher. His presence will surely be missed at UofT."
– Maura O'Sullivan, University of Toronto
"Prof. Baker taught us to look at the history, cultural and social issues underlying the law. He opened our eyes to what was behind the law, the unique perspectives and stories of those who made the law. He was a great academic and giant figure in the life and history of McGill's Faculty of Law. What will be missed the most is his friendship, his jolly laugh, his dry humour and his great advice. Blaine, thank you for all that you did for all your students. You will be dearly missed."
– Mario Nigro, BCL'00, LLB'00
"Blaine Baker astonished me the first day in class because he knew the names of all the students! He was a brilliant teacher and a good friend."
– Charles F. Levine, BCL'88
"Professor Baker was a legend at the Faculty, with not only his inspirational and thought-provoking teaching style, but also his keen and genuine interest in students - their backgrounds, values and journeys. Many of us can recall delightful debates at Coffee House, invitations to join in the discussion and that hearty laugh that fueled our curiosity. May his legend live on."
– Paul Moen, LLB'93
"I was really shocked and saddened to learn of Professor Baker's passing. I knew him as one of the advisors/coaches of McGill's Gale Cup Moot Court team, of which I was a member in 1987, when we won the competition. He was always supportive and offered insightful and constructive criticism with regard to written and oral advocacy. After I graduated and moved to Toronto, he was on sabbatical at U of T, and was the first dinner guest in my home. He was very kind, interesting and a class act. May he rest in peace."
– Cheryl Goldsmith, BCL'87, LLB'87
"His offbeat, embracing teaching style and consummate passion was in-your-face inspiring and refreshing! He challenged us daily and, unlike many other professors then, made us enthusiastic about the law. When the McGill Law Review turned down an article I wrote for one of his classes, he encouraged me to send it elsewhere; it was shortly thereafter published by the Ottawa Law Review. We stayed in touch sporadically over the years; I will miss greatly not having a chance to see him again."
– Mark Chartrand, BCL'84, LLB'84
"Dear Professor Baker, thank you for all of the peppercorns!"
– Nicole C. Lee, BCL'93, LLB'93
"I did not have the privilege of knowing Professor Baker, but I have been inspired by his scholarship and by the many scholars who learned from him. Western Law is saddened by the death of such a distinguished graduate."
– Professor Erika Chamberlain, Dean, Western Law
"Professor Baker was one of the most inspiring and flat-out brilliant professors at the Faculty. What a great loss."
– Mona Lynn, BCL'98, LLB'98
"Meegwetch, my friend, for our conversations on all manner of things from Dryden to Hobsbawm to my stories from the woods of northern New Brunswick. Till we meet and chat once again about the role of a paper mill and land in the small community "real law". You enabled me to see how legal history would always be embedded in my thinking. Stick down and head up."
– Bruce Randall, BCL'85, LLB'85
"Thanks, Professor Baker, for the many lessons in language, law, and life."
– Jonathan Martens, BCL'00, LLB'00
"I had the privilege of taking Contracts from Professor Baker in 1981 - in his and my first year and very first class at the McGill Faculty of Law. When I walked in, I assumed that Contracts was about business. He set me straight quickly, and taught me and my classmates with rigor, humor, and passion that it was actually about the most fundamental structuring of society. Ten years ago, in 2008, I visited McGill with my wife and daughter, and he spent an hour with us, reminiscing. I think he enjoyed it almost as much as we did. I exchanged emails with him only last August, and had hoped to get together with him in Toronto sometime this year. Awful news, but wonderful memories. R.I.P. to a great teacher, and a completely decent and committed human being."
– Owen D Kurtin, LLB'84
"I only knew Blaine for the last two years as a fellow mediator and arbitrator. However, during that time, we enjoyed many interactions and long discussions about current events and our interest in alternative dispute resolution."
"I will miss his regular telephone calls, which always began with a very characteristic 'so... what am I interrupting?'"
"My life and the lives of many in the legal and broader communities are poorer because of his passing. I will miss him."
– Marcel D. Mongeon, BCL'82, LLB'82
"The fundamentals of contract law never better taught or insightfully explained than by Blaine Baker. Twenty five years later, his lessons are with me today and every day. That’s truly a sign of an exceptional teacher - one I will remember with fondness and for his great sense of humility, wisdom and humour. You will be missed and always remembered."
– Lisa Heidman, LLB'95
"Very sorry to hear of Blaine's passing, certainly before his time. I had the privilege of being taught by him in two courses, Intellectual Property and Canadian Legal History. He was an outstanding teacher, with a passion for his subject and also a passion for educating and inspiring the students he taught. A great loss."
– David Goetz, BCL'92, LLB'92
"In 1980 while at Columbia I somehow found myself at a lunch with a fellow named Blaine Baker and a few other LLM candidates at Columbia Law School who were heading up to teach at McGill. I recall being impressed with their energy and passion."
"And when I got to McGill, it was Professor Blaine Baker's Contracts class that made me believe that Harvard was now the McGill of the USA. It was an unbelievable class of back and forth, of jousting and parrying with classmates and Professor Baker that I will never forget."
"We all knew he would become legendary with his great passion for the law and his students in the finest traditions of those before him. He will always be part of the great history and finest traditions of the Law School."
– Demetrios G. Xistris, BCL'84, LLB'85
"Professor Baker was truly a scholar and a gentleman. Thank you for being there for us."
– Andrew Herbert MacSkimming, BCL'02, LLB'02
"The first time I ever encountered Blaine was when he taught the legal history bridge week for first year law students at the University of Toronto in 1989. I can still vividly remember his canary yellow sweater and youthful and cheerful appearance... he looked like John Ritter."
"I also remember being enthralled by his lecture and struggling to keep up with it but absorbing whatever I could. He made legal history accessible and entertaining. To the students in the room, he represented McGill (the other school that we were so curious about) and we were all impressed. It was my encounters with both Blaine and Rod (McDonald) during my time at the University the Toronto that led me to come back to Montréal to study at McGill. Both were impressive giants of law and yet were entirely accessible and full of personality. Both changed my career path and my life ever since."
"Years later, Blaine also volunteered to review my doctoral thesis; his review was pure Blaine - detailed, helpful and selfless. I still remember when I tried to thank him for his selfless act: he simply said make sure you pay it forward and help others when they need it. I have tried to do that ever since and I am sure I am not the only one. Blaine was a class act through and through. He cared about academic rigor but also about the students he taught. He and others who teach have the ability to provide their students with much more than a teaching of the law; they can also shape their students in the ways of empathy and good works. Blaine did this. We've lost a friend."
– Sunny Handa, LLM'95, DCL'98
"The loss is as great as the blessing which it was to have known Professor Baker, one of the most remarkable persons I have ever known."
– Jonathan Widell, DCL'12
"When I think of my time at McGill, Professor Baker's face and quick wit always come to mind. Whether he was teaching the 'peppercorn theory' of consideration, or asking us our opinions in 30 words or less, he was always inspirational, edgy, brilliant and beloved. I consider myself fortunate to have been among his students."
– Peter Bean, LLB'95
"I can count on ten fingers the people in my life who breathed into me the confidence that I needed so badly to carry on. Blaine is one of them. He wrote me a long note about my first year contracts exam that gave me almost unlimited confidence and to this day when I say my prayers I remember him and thank God for the impact he made on my life."
– Bill Tresham, BCL'85
"Blaine Baker was a warm and inspiring professor. Loved by all, he was truly dedicated to his students. I had the privilege to study Contract Law with him. I enjoyed every minute spent with him inside and outside the classroom."
– Stéphane Duranleau, BCL'96, LLB'96
"Professor Baker's course in Administrative Law was one of the highlights of my legal education. He made complex material not just accessible but also fascinating, and did it all in a low-key manner that commanded everyone's respect and full attention in the most natural, self-effacing and apparently effortless way. I am deeply saddened that he is gone."
– Joanna Rainbow, BCL'91, LLB'91
"Canadian Legal History and Administrative Process, with Blaine Baker, were the classes that ended up being most important to my future work in environmental law. I owe him a debt of gratitude."
– Katia Opalka, BCL'97, LLB'97
"Professor Baker taught me Contract Law in my first year of law school. He was the funniest and most engaging professor. He loved his job and his students, and the students loved him back. To this date, I remember how he liked to remind the class that a contract is an exchange of promises underpinned by consideration which can be as trivial as a peppercorn. We learned so much from him. He will be dearly missed."
– Marina A. Bezrukova, LLB'01
"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Baker. While I have seen many statements about his legal abilities - and for me the worlds of legal history and administrative law were opened because of his ability - and while many have spoken of his true fervor and support for his students (of which there is no doubt), perhaps my best recollection of him is the fact that he was a "constant" at Coffee House. My instant memory of him is to see him at a Coffee House, beer in hand, standing and engaging with us as students and treating us as if we were colleagues (granted, junior colleagues). I do not think I would have gone ahead with my graduate degree in law if it had not been for his encouragement and support. I will truly miss him and hope that he rests well."
– Christopher Caruana, BCL'94, LLB'94
"Prof. Baker's Contract Law class was my initiation into the simplicity/complexity of the common law. His passion for the law and for teaching was infectious."
– Janis Riven, BCL'87, LLB'87
"I was fortunate enough to be one of Professor Baker's students in the 1980s, and he introduced me to the practice of law (as opposed to the theory of law). It was under his guidance that i wrote my first "opinion" to a theoretical client. It was a transformative moment for me and my legal education. He will be missed."
– Richard Cherney, BCL'83, LLB'84
"Blaine is a wonderful inspiration. Truly a scholar and a gentleman, his work, his personal communications, his model, have inspired his own and successor generations."
– Professor Wesley Pue, UBC
"Professor Baker was a brilliant, generous and inspiring teacher. I was fortunate to take his seminar on Canadian Legal History. He bemoaned legal studies' move away from historical method and theory. Although Professor Baker is irreplaceable, let us hope that McGill Law hires more faculty with similar interests in the coming years."
– Rosemarie Bernard, BCL/LLB candidate
"Professor Baker was a one of a kind, and so very kind. Funny, brilliant and patient. I am grateful I had the opportunity to tell him about his significance the last time I saw him. I think of him all the time (and quote him, too... "the six most expensive words in the English language: it's the principle of the thing"; "clients don't come in wearing a sandwich board - tort or contract"). His achievements were many, but he was humble about them; his influence, incalculable. What a loss."
– Melanie J. Mortensen, LLB/BCL'02, LLM'07
"I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Blaine’s passing. Blaine was an outstanding legal historian - one of the finest of his generation – whose work was of the highest order. He was also an admirable and much-loved teacher and mentor, a wonderfully colourful character, and a decent, modest, faithful, and funny fellow. Blaine was there for others; and life will be the poorer without him."
– Professor David Sugarman, Lancaster University Law School, UK and Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London
"One of those professors whose classroom teachings come back to you in day-to-day practice, whistling through the decades, providing the spark for a new angle or approach or research point."
– Michael J. Doyle, BCL'88, LLB'88
"Blaine was one of Canada’s great legal historians. I am relatively new to the McGill Faculty of Law. But of course I knew Blaine long before I arrived, from his published scholarship and from his generous interventions at scholarly meetings. His encouragement for my own work was really important for me, as someone who considered himself an interloper into the proper field of legal history. I owe so much to Blaine in this respect. His spirit of intellectual curiosity and his intense scholarly rigour helped to shape the highest standards for the legal-history community."
– Professor Mark D. Walters, F.R. Scott Chair of Public and Constitutional Law
"As a student, Professor Baker's unique intellectual rigor and gift of metaphor shed light on the areas of common law contracts, the administrative process, and Canadian Legal History for me. Additional lessons from being in Blaine's orbit only served to deepen my understanding that strengthening the Rule of Law requires the gifts of intellectual rigor and the use of metaphor. Magister, I salute you. May you rest in peace."
– Milton James Fernandes, BCL'96, LLB'96
"I worked with Professor Baker for the past several years on doing a history of our local law association. He was very helpful in his insights on what we should include and he guided us on the essential elements to be included in a local history. We had just been communicating last month on taking this to the final stages before publication. Regrettably, we will not be able to share the publication with him, but we will be happy to know that he was instrumental in its completion."
– David Cameletti
"I spent the summer advocating for classmates to take Professor Baker's Ethics course at U of T. It will always be one of the highlights of my law school experience. Professor Baker was very entertaining, obviously knowledgeable, and with a wry sense of humour combined with his obvious enjoyment of a good joke. The readings were eclectic in the best possible way, and he did an admirable job of including "outsider" perspectives, i.e. of the marginalized communities interacting with the justice system. Away from class, I appreciated his willingness to regularly chat about my own interests, even when they fell outside his (many) areas of expertise.
Plus, he wrote quite possibly the best syllabus joke ever. Under the unit "Bad Faith and Unconscionable Behaviour," Baker's suggested supplementary reading:
D.J. Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal (New York: Random House, 1988) passim."
– Jeremy Greenberg, JD student, University of Toronto
"I'm one of the many lucky people who were educated and inspired by the wonderful Blaine Baker. His love of teaching and history is legendary, but what people might not know is that Blaine's teaching made a bit of history itself at McGill. The LLB class of 1995 adored Blaine, and we lobbied for the creation of a teaching prize, just so Blaine could win it. He did, of course, and was honoured twice more in later years. Subsequently named after John Durnford, the award still honours the Faculty's outstanding professors to this day."
"Blaine was also my friend. He was unfailingly kind, curious, encouraging, and incredibly helpful. And he asked so little in return. My great hope is that he had at least some inkling of how many people's lives he touched, and how much they cared about him. There will never be another like him. I will miss him always."
– Bonnie Brown, LLB'95
"I had the pleasure of working with Blaine at the Licence Appeal Tribunal. He was a remarkable adjudicator and a wonderful colleague. He will be missed."
– Anna Truong
"I took Legal History with Professor Baker a few years ago. I've never known another teacher to invest such an enormous amount of time and energy in each student. He cared about each of us and went out of his way to support my fellowship application when no one else would. A very sad day to lose such a dedicated teacher."
– Zofia Rogowska, BCL/LLB candidate
"Professor Blaine Baker was a brilliant professor! Having recently studied under him in the fall of 2017, I am tremendously thankful for the many lessons and encouragement that he shared with me during my time at the University of Toronto. God bless."
– Leon Vincent Chan
"Prof Baker taught me judicial review. He brought the topic to life with unique and vivid metaphors (“camel’s nose in the tent”). His will be a mind greatly missed."
– Julia Hanigsberg, BCL'91, LLB'91 (via Twitter)
"Twenty years after my contracts class with him, I still remember and often use his eloquent words to express some of the concepts he taught."
– Saklaine Hedaraly, BCL'01, LLB'01
"Blaine was a titan in common law contracts and Canadian legal history. I cannot imagine my time at McGill Law without him."
– Jeffery Commission, BCL'01, LLB'01
"I was so sad to learn of the passing of our Professor Baker. He was an amazing educator and friend to our class of LLB '95 and his memory is so deeply interwoven with the best of my McGill Law School experience."
– Neil Sternthal, LLB'95
"I was lucky enough to take Prof. Baker’s Canadian legal history course. An extraordinary lecturer, Prof. Baker inspired and motivated his students. I also had the pleasure of working under his supervision on a directed research project. I learned so much from him! He is largely responsible for teaching me the research and writing skills I needed to write my Master’s thesis (and later a dissertation). His integrity, brilliance and work ethic has left an indelible mark. He will be sorely missed."
– Nicole O’Byrne, LLM'06
"Blaine was an outstanding scholar and teacher who cared deeply about his students. His classes were a tour de force of erudition and passion — he was truly one of McGill's crown jewels. Rest in peace."
– Mahmud Jamal, BCL'93, LLB'93
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a former colleague, an excellent teacher, a superb scholar and a genial companion. It is clear he will be much missed."
– The Hon. Ralph Simmonds
"Un phare de la Faculté vient de s’éteindre : le phare de l’histoire du droit. Blaine a su guider avec brio toute une génération de juristes historiens du droit par ses ouvrages novateurs et ses publications marquantes. Il captivait toujours son auditoire, autant comme professeur que comme conférencier. J’ai eu le plaisir de rencontrer Blaine dès 1994 lors de notre participation commune au programme fédéral d’échange common law/droit civil tenu à l’Université de Sherbrooke. Nous avons depuis partagé sans relâche notre passion commune pour les publications juridiques. Blaine était un défenseur irréductible du rôle des bibliothèques, et particulièrement de la sienne, la Bibliothèque Nahum Gelber."
– Daniel Boyer, Bibliothécaire Wainwright, Université McGill
"Professor Baker was a kind soul and a gentle man, as well as an incredible legal scholar. His contributions to the education of generations of McGill law grads cannot be overestimated. I will think of him every time I see a man in a sweater vest. Rest well and peacefully."
– Karen Lajoie, BCL'02, LLB'02
"The McGill community and the legal profession have lost one of the truly great legal historians of our age. Blaine Baker inspired generations of lawyers with his deeply rooted passion for Canadian legal history and knowledge of contract law. He was both a mentor and a friend and will be missed."
– Joshua A. Krane, BCL/LLB'08
"Professor Baker was a fine scholar, teacher, and gentleman. I was a student in his Ethics in ADR and Canadian Legal History classes at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law where Professor Baker's encyclopedic knowledge and kindly banter made my time with him thoroughly enjoyable. He will be missed dearly by the many, many students who have been dazzled by his lectures. His words of encouragement and wisdom are held dearly."
– Alvin Yau
"I had the privilege of knowing Blaine Baker since the late 1970s, when he was a graduate student at Columbia. We met as guests of a McGill Law alumnus at a drinks reception in New York City. Through all the years Blaine was a dedicated scholar and completely committed to his students, for whom he would leave no stone unturned."
– Professor emeritus Stephen Scott, BCL'66
"So sorry to hear this news. I will always associate first-year law and legal history with Blaine Baker. With much gratitude."
– Peter Oliver, BCL'85, LLB'85
"Blaine was a brilliant scholar, and a friend and a mentor to me. He was also an unrivaled source of institutional memory for McGill and Canada.
Fond memories of his loud chortles and Brooks Brothers vests. RIP Blaine."
– Jeff Roberts, BCL/LLB'05
"Learning from Professor Baker was one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences of my time at law school. I had the pleasure of taking both his Canadian Legal History and Ethics in Alternative Dispute Resolution courses at U of T Law, where he taught as a visiting professor upon his retirement from McGill. Professor Baker was an excellent teacher and mentor, and I am very sad to lose him."
– Erinn Wattie
"I had Blaine for Contracts and Legal History, and he wrote in support of my application to clerk at the SCC. I learned much from him and will miss him."
- Professor Robert Leckey, BCL'02, LLB'02, Dean of Law and Samuel Gale Chair (via Twitter)
"Sad to hear about passing of Professor Emeritus Blaine Baker @LAWMcGill. A gifted scholar, a prodigious intellect, and a treasured supervisor and mentor."
– Ian C. Pilarczyk, LLM'97, DCL'03 (via Twitter)
"Blaine Baker taught me Administrative Process at @LAWMcGill -- the "insides" of agencies, set off against the traditional, and separate, judicial review course. He seared "read the statute, read the statute, read the statute" into our minds in a way that seemed downright daring."
– Bram Abramson, BCL/LLB'07 (via Twitter)
"Blaine was an institution at McGill, and passionate about legal history and about what a contract really meant... I will remember both."
– Pearl Eliadis, BCL'85, LLB'85 (via Twitter)
"I lost a mentor today. Blaine Baker was a scholar, a gentleman, and a truly superb teacher. Loved by all."
– Michael Byers, BCL'92, LLB'92 (via Twitter)