Remembering Don Taylor (1943 - 2021)

Dr. Donald Taylor received his PhD in Psychology in 1969 and was Professor of Social Psychology at McGill University for 47 years. In his time at McGill, Dr. Taylor conducted important research on intergroup relations, social identity, and bilingualism, particularly in disadvantaged groups. He taught over 30,000 undergraduate students and mentored many other honours and graduate students. His numerous articles and books continue to impact the field far and wide.

Don Taylor started doing research in Nunavik, the Arctic region of Quebec, at a time when I was also working with families and teachers there. ‎We often traveled in small twin Otter planes and taught Inuit teachers in courses offered by McGill for the Inuit-run Kativk School Board. As different as he might seem from the more taciturn Inuit, people just loved his teaching and his fun and infectious personality. He did wonderful studies that, in a variety of ways, showed how smart Inuit children were and yet how early they came to think that they were not. His work helped both Inuit and non-Inuit teachers to better understand the children they were teaching. He also called out what he saw, very often challenging governments and communities to face their realities. He did his research on the front lines as it were. At McGill, I never got over how fast he typed with two fingers and task oriented he was so that he could leave his office at 3pm to coach hockey to kids living in Point St. Charles. Don was quite simply a splendid researcher and person.

Prof. ‎Martha Crago
Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation), McGill University

Don Taylor died Sunday evening just a few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 78. Don started at McGill in 1969 and taught 30,000 students over the next 47 years. Even as an emeritus professor he remained active supervising honours students until a year ago when he moved to British Columbia. Don was unique in the ways in which through research and teaching he engaged with disadvantaged groups throughout the world, especially indigenous communities here in Canada and Quebec. He received numerous research and teaching honours including the Gold Medal from the Canadian Psychological Association and the McGill Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement. To those of us who knew him personally, he was a larger than life figure, living boldly and fully.  

Prof. John Lydon
Department of Psychology

Don and I met just as I was leaving McGill for Newfoundland in 1969. I went to Memorial to study the effect of resettlement on child development in remote communities. We really didn’t know what to do. So I phoned Don. Two weeks later he was on a boat with us on stormy seas on the south coast of Newfoundland. He showed us the way. Later we connected on our work in the Arctic. He in Nunavik and me in Nunavut. When I got discouraged about the slow pace of progress, Don would say “nobody said this would be easy, but we have to keep on. That’s why we are here,” then he would tell a great story that left me chuckling for a day. And then there was music. Only two types as far as he was concerned. There was “Country” and then there was “Western.” So full of life in every way. A real shock to see him go.

Prof. James MacDougall
Department of Psychology

Heartbroken to learn of the loss of a true giant in Don Taylor. As for so many of us, he’s the reason I got into psychology. His lectures @McGillPsych were the stuff of legend. This video from his retirement party captures a bit of what made him so special.

Nour Kteily (@NourKteily), October 26, 2021

Read a tribute by former student, Prof. Winnefred Louis.

Read more in this Facebook thread of comments from community members. 

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