Barbara Jane Burnaby passed away on February 2, 2018 in St John’s, Newfoundland. She was 74.
Barbara completed both a Bachelor of Fine Art (1965) and a Master of Arts in Linguistics (1972) at the University of Toronto. In 1979 she completed her PhD in Education Theory at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE); her dissertation was entitled Roles of Languages in Education for Native Children in Ontario.
That same year, Barbara joined OISE as Research Associate for ESL and Native Language research. Prior to her appointment as Associate Professor in the Department of Adult Education at OISE in 1986, she served as the Executive Head for Sponsored Research. From 1991 to 1995 she served as Chair, Department of Adult Education, and from 1995, she was appointed Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning. In 2000, Barbara left OISE to serve as Dean and Professor of language policy and education in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland. One of her first projects as Dean was to travel to the north coast of Labrador with Bernadette Power; together they visited communities and schools in order to promote cooperation between the Faculty of Education and Labrador communities.
Barbara was a prolific researcher and writer, contributing to over 30 books in her lifetime. In the mid-1980s she worked on a series of English as Second Language (ESL) professional development modules with Jill Bell and Jane Love. In the late 80s, she worked with faculty at OISE to produce the Circle program, a collection of ESL and reading resources designed for Cree and Ojibwe speaking children. In addition to developing language education materials, she wrote about language policy, endangered languages, and adult education. Her research project with Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, Knowledge and Human Resources for Innu Language Development, was awarded a SSHRC CURA grant of nearly one million dollars in 2004.
She was extraordinarily generous with her time and took a great deal of pride in her students’ work, keeping a copy of each thesis and dissertation she had supervised on her bookshelves for the remainder of her life. Barbara also took great pride in the 2013 publication of A Celebration of Qualitative Research: A Festschrift for Dr. Barbara Burnaby, prepared by her former OISE graduate students.
After her retirement in 2005, Barbara remained quite active, devoting a large portion of her time to her volunteer work, her art, and her gardening.
Barbara was a tireless advocate for literacy, particularly Indigenous language literacy. The Burnaby Aboriginal Literacy Blog, co-created with Arden Ogg, includes one of the most extensive bibliographies of articles and works on the topic. In her later years in St. John’s, Barbara was also instrumental in supporting and advocating for the Refugee Immigrant and Advisory Council (RIAC) and the Coalition on Richer Diversity (CORD), through donations, representing RIAC on various St. John’s committees, as well as writing grant and research proposals and letters of advocacy on RIAC’s behalf.
Outside of her work in education, Barbara was an accomplished artist and crafter, working in the media of painting, printmaking, and textiles, among others. Her fabric cyanotypes, often made from plants grown in her backyard, are instantly recognizable, as are the jackets, bags and quilts she made from the fabric.
Her painting and printwork in her later life was heavily influenced by her home; her work was equally capable of capturing Newfoundland’s severe and violent beauty and well as its stillness. She often showed her work at the Pollyanna Art Gallery on Duckworth Street. She also spent a great deal of time working in her spectacular show garden; visiting it was the highlight of many a potluck hosted in her Victorian home overlooking the Waterford River.
Barbara’s health declined rapidly in 2017, taking her friends somewhat by surprise. She was able to conceal her illness for quite some time, owing in part to her unwavering cheerfulness and generosity towards others, for which she will always be remembered.
Barbara is survived by her brother Sandy, his wife Helen, her nephew Nick and wife Amy. Memorial University’s flags will fly at half-mast on Saturday, February 10, from 1 – 4 p.m. to mark her passing.