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Irving Brecher, Emeritus Professor of Economics at McGill University since 1985, passed away on Feb. 2, 2007, the day after his 84th birthday.
My brother was endowed with superior intelligence, curiosity and firm convictions. His talent was evident throughout his studies—at the University of Chicago, McGill (BA, with First Class Honours in Economics), Harvard (MA and PhD) and Yale (LLB).
In 1948, at the age of 25, Irving began his career as an Assistant Professor of Economics at McGill. Two years later, always in search of knowledge and a broader disciplinary framework, he went to the Yale Law School. We received our Yale degrees on the same day, in June 1953, Irving, his LLB, and I, a PhD in International Relations.
He returned to McGill in 1957 and, for almost three decades, he and I continued to interact. I had joined the faculty in 1952, and we were both members of the Department of Economics and Political Science. In the late 1950s and early 60s, the Brecher brothers shared an office in Purvis Hall.
Irving was promoted to Full Professor at McGill in 1962, before he was 40, a most uncommon achievement in our generation. The next year, he founded the McGill Centre for Developing-Area Studies, the premier research institute in Canada of its kind during Irving's period as Director, until 1971. In the early 1970s, Irving served as Vice-Chair of the Economic Council of Canada. During the early 1980s, he chaired the McGill Department of Economics and in the late 1980s, he was one of the originators of what became International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. These values, especially individual rights and democracy, were Irving's highest values. Their promotion was a relentless goal for the rest of his life.
Irving never imposed his views. They were carefully considered and wise. Often, I accepted his advice, to my great benefit.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Irving's family well. He and his wife, Toba Herman, had a wonderful marriage of more than 62 years. He was visibly proud of the achievements of his children, Rick, Tom, Ron and Terrie. He spoke with pride of his eight grandchildren and was the favourite uncle of many.
Irving touched the minds and hearts of all who encountered him. He left the world a much better place than he found it. He lived a life that mattered, that made a profound difference in the personal and professional realms. That, in the end, is the measure of a life well-lived.
Michael Brecher is R.B. Angus Professsor of Political Science at McGill.