Dr. Graham Neil was a passionate advocate of physical education
It is with great sadness that McGill University Athletics and Recreation announces the death of Dr. Graham Neil, who served as a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education from 1970 to 2002.
The native of Stanbridge East, Que., succumbed on June 9 at the Montreal General Hospital, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 73.
Graham Ivan Neil earned two academic degrees from McGill (B.Ed. '62, MA '63), followed by a PhD from the University of Oregon. As a student, he served as captain and manager of the track and field team at the University's Macdonald College campus where he also coached the junior varsity basketball team. After his doctorate, he spent several years as a high school physical education teacher in Cowansville before being accepting his appointment at McGill in 1970.
"We have lost a passionate advocate of school-based physical education in Quebec," said Dr. Greg Reid, a former department chair who retired earlier this year from the University. "He continued to supervise student teachers after retirement. So enthusiastic for this activity, he postponed, by a couple of days, one of his hospital visits when his cancer was diagnosed, to ensure he kept his school appointment."
As a graduate supervisor, Neil was highly valued for permitting students to pursue their own research and for his challenging and insightful questions. He was also active in sport psychology and authored some early papers on superstitions in sport. He assisted numerous McGill coaches and athletes.
His interest in sport psychology attracted a number of students to pursue a master's degree at McGill, including Mike Babcock, coach of the NHL Detroit Red Wings. Among the others he mentored was McGill women's hockey coach Peter Smith, who went on to coach the Canadian national team, McGill soccer coach Marc Mounicot and former Redmen bench boss Martin Raymond, currently coaching with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League after a three-year stint with the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.
Neil was an accomplished hockey player, singer and folk-dance caller. A true 'townshipper', he remained in Stanbridge East for most of his life and commuted daily to McGill during his three decades as a professor. He spent many summers farming his land but warmly welcomed McGill staff and their children for a visit during any season. His undergraduate teaching included gymnastics, handball, and canoe tripping. He wrote one of the first-ever books on handball, following the 1976 Montreal Olympics. At various times he served as chair of the department and as associate dean in the faculty of education.
"Students will recall his physical activity classes with fondness, a place where their physical improvement was demanded and the pedagogical relevance of the activity highlighted," said Reid. "Sport, physical education, and the 'Townships' have lost a dedicated and fine gentleman."
Neil is survived by his partner Laura, sons Scott (Mélanie) and Gordie (Louise), plus daughters Heidi (Cooper) and Abbie (Mathieu) as well as seven grandchildren.
Family members will receive condolences on Friday, June 14 (1-3 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.) at Brome-Missisquoi Funeral Complex, 215 River Street, Bedford, Que (450-248-2911). A funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on June 15 at the United Church in Stanbridge East.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society, would be appreciated by the family. Forms available at the funeral home or directly at www.cancer.ca
Condolences may be expressed online at: www.complexebm.com/obituaries