R. David Bourke

October 22, 1931 - May 31, 2003

Our friend and colleague, David Bourke, died on May 31, 2003, as the result of an accident on May 13. He was a talented and multi-faceted man who will be remembered in many different ways for five decades of distinguished service to the University, the community and the profession.

He was, first and foremost, an architect; he completed his Bachelor of Architecture at McGill, graduating in 1954 with the Lieutenant-Governor's Silver Medal and the McLennan Traveling Scholarship, and later studied at Harvard, where he obtained his Master in Architecture in 1959. He interned with several important Montreal and Toronto architects, and between 1960 - when he was elected president of the Montreal Society of Architects - and 1972, he practiced with the firm that became known as Dobush, Stewart, Bourke, Longpré, Marchand, Goudreau. One of their best-known projects was of course McGill's McLennan Library; he and his partners were highly regarded for their educational buildings and their work was recognized with awards in numerous architectural competitions. David was an Academician of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, where he recently completed a three-year term as Dean of the College of Fellows.

In 1972, David's career took an interesting and dramatic turn when he left full-time practice and returned to McGill as Executive Assistant to the Principal. In 1982, he was appointed to the position of Secretary-General of the University, a post which he held, and in many ways defined, until 1995. His last official assignment, as Acting Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations), brought his formal association with the University to an elegant close in 1996.

Throughout this period of 24 years, David wore many different hats. He served as Director of Development and Communications, Director of University Relations, President of the Faculty Club, Acting Director of the Redpath Museum in '89-'90, Chair of the University Museums and Collections Committee, Vice-President of the Graduates' Society, and a key member of the 175th Anniversary James McGill Statue Committee in 1996. His record of service with the McCord Museum was particularly distinguished; he was twice Acting Director of the Museum, President in '86-'87, Chair of the Building Committee between '87 and '92, during which time he oversaw a $30-million expansion, and Chair of the Board of Trustees.

He also served for many years as a valued member of the University's Architectural Advisory Committee, from which he stepped down only a few months ago; typically outspoken, highly ethical, always critical but unfailingly constructive, his contributions to the work of that committee did much to raise the standards of design and construction on the campus.

An extraordinary number of other cultural, educational and service institutions benefited from his generosity and broad expertise over the years; he served as President, Chair, and active member of countless management boards, selection committees, and, perhaps most significantly, building committees, where his design and organizational skills served him and the groups with whom he worked very well. These organizations included the Boy Scouts of Canada, Dawson College, the Fraser Hickson Institute, the University Club, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Montréal, the United Church and St. Andrews-Dominion Douglas Church, where he not only chaired the board of trustees but also sang in the senior choir. The Redbirds Ski Club, where he was an active and enthusiastic member for most of his life, was especially important to him.

David arrived at McGill in 1950 and in some ways never left. He was a visiting critic in the School of Architecture immediately following his graduation, a visiting lecturer in the School of Library Science between '66 and '74, and he taught on a regular basis in the School of Architecture from 1973 to 1982. He was from his student days deeply committed to the School of Architecture and he embraced every opportunity to contribute to our programs and activities; his death leaves more than one project shorthanded. He was quick to volunteer and never turned down an invitation to participate in a special project or join a new committee where his experience, sense of humour and wise counsel were always welcome and much appreciated.

David will be remembered by all of us for his numerous achievements over a rich and varied career that spanned fifty years. We will miss his cheerful presence, his optimism, and most of all his irrepressible zest for life; our thoughts are with his wife Marlene and their family, and the many friends and colleagues whose lives he has touched.

The funeral service took place at St. Andrews-Dominion Douglas Church, Roslyn Avenue at the Boulevard, on Tuesday, June 3.

Back to top