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Former UPEI president Dr. C.W.J. Eliot dies


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Former UPEI music professor Bert Tersteeg says is going to miss making music with Dr. C.W.J. Eliot on Thursday mornings.
Eliot, president and chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island from 1985-95, died Tuesday at the Sackville Hospital after suffering a stroke at his home in Dorchester, N.B., last month. He was 79.
"He became almost like a brother more than a colleague,'' Tersteeg said Wednesday.
The former music professor said he and Eliot got together every Thursday morning at 10:15 to chat and play music - Tersteeg on cello and Eliot on piano.
"He came (to my house in Charlottetown) every Thursday morning to make music and talk about everything for the past 20 years.''
At first, the two shared their love of talk and music at the university before shifting to Tersteeg's home in Charlottetown.
He said Eliot would always call on Wednesday night to make sure their fun time was a go before driving over from Dorchester.
"We got quite close the last 15 years. I was the one who enticed him to go back to music when he was president (of UPEI). Even then we got together every Thursday and had lunch together. He called it his therapeutic session,'' said Tersteeg, who ran the music department at the Charlottetown campus from 1965-93.
Eliot was named president emeritus in 1996.
He was the third person to serve as president since UPEI was created in 1969. He also taught classics at UPEI from 1985 to 1997.
Born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in 1928, Eliot had a prolific professional career as a classicist, especially in Greek history and archaeology. After receiving his bachelor of arts, master of arts and doctor of philosophy from the University of Toronto, he attended the American School of Classical Studies in Athens from 1952 to 1957 where he did graduate research.
"He was a gentleman, a scholar and a person who was totally committed to liberal education but had a lasting respect for all areas at the university,'' said Joe Revell, who served as dean of the school of business under Eliot.
Revell said Eliot was famous for his daily walkabouts around the campus, dropping in at odd times just to chat.
Verner Smitheram, dean of arts at UPEI from 1983-91, said Eliot was a living embodiment of academic intellectual values.
"He was a classicist and that was reflected in everything he did,'' Smitheram said.
"He guarded very clearly the autonomy of the university, from encroachment outside the university with government. He firmly believed the university should
be run strictly along academic values.''
UPEI issued a statement on Wednesday that said Eliot's "advice and counsel on academic issues was highly valued and often requested. He provided a strong public voice on issues pertaining to the state of Canadian education and the plight of Canadian students.''
Smitheram said Eliot was adamant that the direction of the university should be set by faculty and the student body.
"He was a real academic democrat,'' said Smitheram, who worked at UPEI in one capacity or another from 1967-2007.
Smitheram said one of Eliot's lasting legacies will be that Main Building was restored under his watch.
Eliot is survived by his wife, Mary (Williamson) Eliot, and their children, Charles, Nicholas, Johanna and Luke. He was predeceased by his daughter, Sophia.
UPEI will hold a memorial celebration in honour of Eliot at a later date.

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