Mentors In Memoriam

McGill’s Faculty of Education has a long history of enriching minds and enhancing society through its areas of study and in-depth research. Throughout the years, new academic programs and initiatives were launched by Faculty trailblazers and mentors; professors who carved out new paths for staff and students to follow:


Dr. Harold Don Allen portrait photo in black and whiteDr. Harold Don Allen


Educator, Numismatist, and Chronicler of Nature 



Dr. Harold Don Allen, who taught generations of math students and future teachers, instilled a sense of wonder in bright young people about the beauty of numbers and cryptograms, brought a storyteller's passion to the curation of numismatic history from banknotes to milk tokens, and loved nature and the lore and the lure of the Canadian North, passed away quietly on July 11, 2020 in Brossard, Quebec, the family at his side.

After graduating from the High School of Montreal (as Dux of the school, the highest award a school can bestow on a student, the overall award for academic excellence), where he would later return as a math teacher, Allen entered McGill University in 1949, completing his BSc in Mathematics and Physics with Distinction in 1952 and high school teaching certificate a year later. In his 1952 McGill University yearbook, Don Allen wrote “The secret of success is constancy of purpose”, presaging a lifelong commitment to teaching and inspiring others – in the classroom and through his carefully-researched, internationally-acclaimed writing. An award-winning young journalist, he wrote extensively for the McGill Daily, had a weekly science and math column for children in Verdun's The Messenger “How and Why by Uncle Don" which ran to over 200 issues, and developed skills in radio broadcasting that would serve him throughout his career.

Allen was awarded Masters degrees from Santa Clara University in 1966 and Rutgers University in 1968, having pursued both with “constancy of purpose” during the summer holidays over the previous decade. His doctorate in mathematics education, a source of enormous pride for him throughout his life, was conferred on him by Rutgers in 1977. Click here to read Dr. Allen's full obituary.



Dr. Mildred Burns

Professor Emeritus




Mildred Louise Wolfe was born in Riverton, a small town in southern Iowa, in 1921. According to her mother, she was destined to be the sixth-generation female teacher in her family. Mildred completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1942.

Mildred became a teacher at Peter Lassen Junior High School in Sacramento, California. After twelve years, she was granted sabbatical leave and undertook a doctoral program at Stanford University, and was awarded the Ph.D. in 1968. That year, she was offered a position as Assistant Professor at McGill University in Montreal to teach school administrative studies such as Planning, Finance, and Supervision of Instruction. Along the way, she became a Canadian citizen.

In her 25 years as a professor of educational administration at McGill University, Dr. Mildred Burns worked tirelessly to inspire students, men as well as women, to see beyond self-imposed limits and to promote women's full participation in senior educational roles. An inspired leader and mentor, Dr. Burns was widely appreciated as a connector of people with professional as well as personal opportunities. Mildred worked with hundreds of students, some local and some from very distant countries.

In 1995, she wrote a textbook on educational planning entitled, "Values Based Planning for Quality Education." Always an innovator, Mildred was a pioneer in computer technology using an early prototype for information data analysis. She was the major supervisor for twenty-five Master's and Ph.D. thesis programs. Many of these students remained good friends and became her 'Canadian family.' Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Burns helped win the right for staff and professionals at McGill to work beyond the age of 65.

Upon her retirement at the age of 75, Mildred whiled away her time with friends and with writing a family memoir, The Wolfe Pack, and later a fictional account of an immigrant family looking for a better life in Redstone Manor: High Hopes.



Dr. Margaret GillettDr. Margaret Gillett, M.A., Ed.D., LL.D.

William C. Macdonald Emerita Professor




Australian by birth, Dr. Margaret Gillett came to North America in the late 1950s, to pursue graduate studies in the United States. After completing her Ed.D. at Columbia University in 1961, she found her home in Canada and became an Associate Professor at McGill’s Faculty of Education in 1964 before becoming a full professor in 1967.

A feminist pioneer in higher education, Dr. Gillett was a catalyst in developing a graduate program in feminist research and published countless works exploring the role of women in higher education, notably “We Walked Very Wearily: A History of Women at McGill” and “Our Own Agendas”. While forging her career, Dr. Gillett also volunteered on national and global executive committees as well as community organizations, maintaining the feminist voice.

“Margaret Gillett was an iconic figure at McGill”, commented Dr. Ratna Ghosh (Distinguished James McGill Professor, McGill Education). “She established the Women’s Centre in the University and forced the doors open for women scholars and faculty and helped break the glass ceiling at McGill.” Ghosh continued to describe Dr. Gillett’s leadership. “Not only was she the first female Full Professor in the Faculty of Education but she was also the first female to hold the Sir William C. Macdonald Chair. She was gentle but assertive and had a great sense of humour.”

The Founding Editor of the McGill Journal of Education, Dr. Gillett also contributed to the academic community by supervising graduate students in Education until the late 1990s. A recipient of many high honours, awards, and research grants, Dr. Gillett was bestowed the title of Professor Emerita in 1995.



Dr. Eigil "Pete" PedersenDr. Eigil "Pete" Pedersen, M.A., Ed.D., LL.D. Honouris Causia

Professor Emeritus




A self-made scholar, Eigil Pedersen attended evening high school classes while pursuing an apprenticeship as a silversmith in Montreal. He continued his studies at the School for Teachers at Macdonald College of McGill University. His first teaching job was at Royal Arthur School in Montreal, the same elementary school he attended as a boy.

While teaching full-time, Eigil continued to pursue his Bachelor of Arts (1956) at Sir George Williams University, a Master's degree (1961) at McGill University, followed by a doctorate (Ed.D.) in the Sociology of Education (1966) at Harvard University.

Dr. Pedersen held many positions during his 32-year tenure at McGill, including full professor, Dean of Students, Provost, and Vice-Principal Academic. As Vice-Principal of McGill during a time of political unrest in Quebec, he was instrumental in helping to ensure continued provincial funding of English-speaking universities.

Though busy as an administrator, Dr. Pedersen found the time to undertake research and publish. Perhaps his most important research demonstrated that the long-term adult success of students was strongly correlated to the quality of the teaching they received as children, as opposed to the prevailing educational paradigm that suggested that social factors such as students' socio-economic and parental background were the predominantly determining factors.

Dr. Pedersen ended his thirty-two year career at McGill University having been given the honourary title of Professor Emeritus in 1990.

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