Thursday, November 27, 2014

The passing of an era: Sam Noumoff Dies at 79 Tributes follow

For many generations of students who studied politics at McGill University, Sam Noumoff was an iconic figure. He taught courses in political theory and comparative politics that you would be hard pressed to find on the curricula of universities in the developed or, indeed the developing, world today. Aside from offering a radical perspective on the comparative politics of East Asia, over the years Sam introduced thousands of students to Marxist political theory and even offered a course, on which I was briefly his teaching assistant, called Comparative Revolution.

Sam, with his radical ideas, was often a thorn in the side of the University administrators who more than once tried to get rid of him. He was part of the failed effort, back in the 1970s, to unionise the faculty at McGill. However, over the years I think there developed a begrudging respect for Sam among the high mighty at McGill, as he actively engaged in University governance and tirelessly pursued fights, not only for academic freedom, but also against unjust treatment, whether of faculty, students, administrative staff or the many workers who kept the university’s physical plant running.

Sam came to McGill from the United States in 1967 as a young firebrand deeply involved in the movement against the Vietnam War. He fought a life-time battle against what he was not afraid to label as US imperialism, or what he said was the “U.S. determination to control the world’s destiny on its own terms through military power”. Over the years he gained the respect of leaders of revolutionary movements and national liberation struggles as he tirelessly, and often quietly, intervened where he could to advance their cause. In one reminiscence he told of the time when on an academic visit to North Korea in the 1970s the foreign minister had asked him to carry a note to Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, which was a back door effort to get peace negotiations going with the US. Of course, Richard Holbrooke, the Undersecretary who eventually agreed to meet him, made it clear the US was not interested in such overtures. Many found Sam’s sympathy for North Korea difficult to understand, but it was simple for him: he saw North Korea as a victim and a product of decades of US efforts to isolate contain and destroy the regime by any means possible. Sam had many stories about the harassment he and his wife suffered by US and South Korea intelligence, at the height of what was not a very “cold” war, for what was always his effort to oppose the imposition of US power in Asia.

For many of us who studied at McGill in the 1970s Sam, along with his life-time colleague and friend Paul Lin, introduced us to the history of the Chinese revolution. Sam had a profound understanding of modern Chinese politics and the social and economic transformation unleashed by the Chinese Communist Party that has proven to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of late development the world has ever seen. He was deeply philosophical but by no means naive about the Party’s efforts to lead the country forward into the 21st Century. Sam saw the incremental moves towards developing a more democratic China on its own terms over the past couple of decades as part of a long historical process, which would be driven by the Chinese people’s own efforts to build their future. He observed the way people were carving out their own spaces for local elections and the impact of internet and electronic technology on giving them access to new forms of expression and communication. He commented on the emerging practice of law and people’s own claims being pursued through the legal system in fights against abuses of power or in defence of local communities. 

While Sam became an authority on politics in China, Japan and the Koreas, he maintained relationships with organisations and movements all over the South and often with individuals caught in the grip of asymmetric power. Over the years he assisted countless people in their small and big struggles in life, never asking for anything in exchange, always concerned about their well-being. Countless individuals from across Latin America, the Philippines, India, Palestine and so many other places will have very personal memories of correspondence, advice and unselfish assistance that Sam provided.
But I will always remember Sam foremost as a teacher. In those early days when I was a young rebel opposing the Vietnam War and smitten by the counter-culture of the early 1970s, I can remember Sam drawing spirals on the blackboard in an attempt to get us to understand dialectics and how processes of incremental change can lead to qualitative leaps. He introduced me to the works of scientific socialism and he was aghast when, inspired by the Chinese revolution, I told him I was leaving university without finishing my degree to go out and live what we were studying. He pleaded with me to stay and finish my studies first, but I was a hot-headed idealist. In the ensuing almost decade of working in factories, engaging in street politics and international solidarity activities, I kept some contact with Sam who never condemned our naïve politics but often shook his head at the mistakes we made. When I humbly went back and knocked on Sam’s door almost a decade later, he generously welcomed me back and was a constant source of encouragement as I got serious about critically studying the history of socialism, the economics and politics of development and launched myself on a long process of finishing my BA, getting a scholarship to do a Masters and then one to go on to undertake doctoral research at the University of Oxford.

During my doctoral research in the Philippines, I helped Sam arrange to visit and to travel to the zones where the New People’s Army had their strongholds. He wanted to meet party leaders and activists first hand and to talk with them about their struggle in the post-Marcos era. It was a hard journey for him, as I remember, but he came back fascinated and for long thereafter followed what was happening and offered modest comment and the occasional critical reflection over what they were doing. That was the way Sam lived – a man of staunch principle, sympathetic to those who were fighting injustices of all kinds, but hesitant to pass judgment and ready to offer quiet advice.

I was able to reconnect with Sam a few years ago when he was living in Spain with his most beloved wife Francesca who also sadly died just weeks before Sam. It was to be a rushed time at the tail end of a short vacation on the Costa Blanco, but as I was stranded by the Icelandic volcano, we were able to enjoy much more time together than originally planned. One day, we drove Sam and Francesca up into the mountains to a tiny village that had been a stronghold of resistance against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War. There we met the old one-armed proprietor who, against all the odds, had kept the village in Republican hands during the entire war and who was still running the village restaurant serving big plates of paella with the single arm left to him by the fascists. Sam was fascinated looking at the memorabilia in that place and it launched us into discussions about the civil war, the anti-fascist war and what emerged in its aftermath. He was as fascinated a few days later when we met up to go and see and hear the flamenco dancers. Sam was a man of many passions.

I probably became much more circumspect about socialism than Sam in the years after I returned to my studies and perhaps Iearned more about political science and development economics from other professors. But Sam and I always connected over a deep critique of the polity in which we were born and a life-long commitment to opposing the imposition of its power on people around the world. I learned that Sam had once met Pete Seeger, who had so influenced me long before I went to Canada. I learned that Sam was involved in the defence of Daniel Elsberg and Anthony Russo when they were charged for releasing the Pentagon Papers, the exposé of US aggression in Indochina that had such an impact on me in my formative years. I saw in Sam a man of principle, who even when I disagreed with his position on this or that point, I always admired. When I last spoke to Sam a couple of weeks ago in hospital I told him how important he was in my formation. He said, well that is the way of this world, that he had learned from Chomsky, I learned from him and my students would carry it on. Sam was one of the people who taught me to be a teacher. He valued deeply his students and saw his responsibility to help them develop a critical mind and that, perhaps more than anything else, has influenced my own vocation as a teacher. Sam will be, and already is, deeply missed by all those fortunate enough to have crossed his path in our lives.

James Putzel
Professor of Development Studies
London School of Economics

Tributes and notes from all over the world For Sam Noumoff (1935-2014)
- The inevitable has happened. We have lost a dear friend who was a person of great intellect and intelligence who contributed much to the scholarly world and his wide circle of friends.- Sam Freedman, Montreal
-If you attend a burial, please ask if you might be able to toss a shovelful of earth on Sam's casket in my name.  Thank you for being Sam's friend and mine. - Elliot Ephraim Northford, Connecticut
-Of course it was inevitable under the circumstances. But I am sad. He always meant a great deal to me.-Sam Boskey, Montreal
-I mourn his passing after 40 plus years of friendship. Rosalind Boyd, Montreal
- I am sad and regret not seeing him at least once more, but I am left feeling an enormous sense of good fortune and honour to have known and worked with Sam. To have been his colleague and comrade, to have stood with him in any of his innumerable struggles, was to be on the side of the angels. ……And I had the privilege of serving my advocacy apprenticeship under his tutelage, and seeing first-hand the depth of his conviction and his commitment to justice. He was a giant, and my life is immeasurably richer for having known him- Anthony Pare, British Columbia
Very sad to hear about Professor Noumoff.  He was a great man.  May his soul rest in peace! Jalauddin, Montreal
I'm deeply sorry to learn of Sam's Rapid Departure.I feel comforted in a lovely brief visit we shared on Monday afternoon.A lion of a person he was! He'll be thoroughly missed by us all for sure. We keep his lovely smile and golden friendly ways. True. Sam was a stalwart example for many who loved and valued his wisdom. We carry him in our hearts now.- Philip and Judith Taylor
He was truly a great man who will be missed by all who knew him. Harmala Gupta, New Delhi
I was thinking of Sam this morning before I got up. I was wondering how he was keeping. I am so sad to hear about this.He was a great guy. I never met him. I was hoping that he would one day find the time to come over to South Africa and to talk more intimately about our civilizations in crisis, when all the orthodox solution of yesterday have failed us. He responded to my journal IKWEZI. He liked it very much. And of course we responded through the internet. A convinced solution like he took the whole  world to his heart. He belongs like so many to a generation that is passing away and leaving the world to the youth of today. But their legacies remain. I hope that somebody will have the grace to record his life, his commitment to socialism and to internationalism so that it is not buried away, forgotten. The mainstream media will not acknowledge him but we have to in our own way as an inspiration to generations to come. He will be sadly missed by those who knew him better. - Bennie Bunsee, South Africa
It took me a while to process that Sam passed away this morning. Although we knew that he was weak and that he had a lot of health issues he was so persistent, and hopeful in his struggles that I agree with you that he was an outstanding personality, a dear and kind friend, and an incredible truthful witness to many unrecorded and suppressed instances of the last century.  We will miss him very much. –Vera Pohland, New York
We are very sorry to hear about Dr. Noumoff"s passing.  Indeed he was a great man, He was always very helpful and kind to us at all times.  His passing will be a great loss to all his friends.  We will always remember him
Luojun Xia and Wendy, Montreal
-A great guy, an inspiration for many--all over the world, kind and giving, always ready to provide an analytical inside to what the mainstream did not care to cover--he will not be forgotten. My deepest respect to him. Rana Bose, Montreal
- I remember him very fondly as a mentor when I was working as an admin asst at McGill's Documentation Centre. He made me realize my potential. I also remember his humor, for he would make me laugh. –Nilambri Ghai, Ottawa
-Sad indeed. Never thought of Sam dying....a towering figure that he was.......He and Francesca were often at our place or we at theirs. Chengiah Ragaven
-Sam Noumoff was a dear friend to a number of people I have known. He was one of a kind. Patrick Barnard, Montreal
-I am sad to hear this. He helped me often and was a figure in my early days in Montreal. He actually gave me the contact in Cuba that brought Judy and me together. Kevin Callahan, Montreal
-Sam will be missed, a great man, a mentor, and a very kind gentleman. Ihab Hashim, Montreal
-We love you Sir, my heart breaks but you are in a better place now....with Francesca.... Angely Pacis, Ottawa
-When thinking of Sam, a saying from the Good Book (which was hardly one of his favourites!) comes to mind: ‘He was truly of the salt of the earth.’ Josef Schmidt
-Thanks very much for sending me the sad news. I'm travelling in Europe this week and next, and I'm very sorry that I won't be in Montreal on the 9th. (I will always remember Sam for the great exchanges we had when we taught together Pol Sci 231, together with John Shingler and James Tully; but also for his devotion and tremendous kindness to our students. He was an exceptional teacher). Charles Taylor
-I was most distressed to hear of Sam’s death.   I first met him in 1976 when I came to McGill as a visiting professor for a year.   I fell in love with him and Francesca almost immediately.   We saw each other quite a lot during the year and became good friends.    I visited them again a few years later and we both felt as if we had left each other only yesterday.   We were in regular touch over the phone.   I shall miss him greatly, just as I miss Francesca.   They were devoted to each other and were the warmest and kindness human beings I have had the privilege to know. Many thanks for looking after him during his illness and keeping me informed. With all good wishes. Bhikhu Parekh
-A McGill Political Science Department-eulogy to Sam Noumoff, to be voted on January 27th, 2015:
Sam Noumoff was a dedicated academic and a committed political activist, different from most of each genre in that he did not, in fact would not and could not, make any distinction between the two. That integrity, combined with curiousity and compassion, was the central trait of his character and the fundamental operational principle of his remarkable life. True, it brought him heavy criticism, mostly from resentment of his ability to expose hypocrisy and opportunism, along with bountiful praise. He shrugged off the criticism, accepted with modesty and grace the praise, and carried on as before in the things in which he most believed – the obligation to tred fearlessly on political toes whether inside the university or across the world, and to respect in his own life and actions the principles he berated others for lacking. This was not so much a mark of courage, though that certainly abounded in Sam, but of simple conviction. Jack Weldon, long chair and in many ways the intellectual soul of the economics department in the days when it was partnered both administratively and intellectually with political science, used to say – there is only one Dreyfuss Case; we are just obligated to fight it again and again, in different forms and different fora at different times. Sam was the embodiment of that. It was not that he took delight in berating the complacent and the powerful – he just could not conceive of living any other way.  

[Please leave your tributes, memories, reflections about Sam in the comments section below]


  1. Dear Elliot and Emma (Ephraim)
    I am absolutely heart broken; now that one of my oldest and dearest friends has passed away. How sad, how sad! All my memories from Worcester days come back to me. How he and you so dearingly introduced me to American life, until then so foreign to me. My first public debate was with and against Sam. Oh! what a wonderful debate it was. How he laughed when I told him how hungry the Chinese were!! And how he warned me against being exploited by the CIA led Radio Free Europe, when I was kicked oout of Poland. Oh what a great and affectionate friend Sam was. I really can't believe that he is no more. And thank God, or thank you dear Elliot and Emma that you brought us together a few years ago at your lovely home. In any case he has not left me . Sam is and will always be in my heart and mind.
    PK (Peter Raina, Berlin)

  2. Sam was a dear friend for almost two decades, and his passing leaves us with a sharp sense of loss. He was vibrant, loved life, and enjoying sharing his joys, convictions, and warmth with many around him. This made his decline painful to watch over the past decade, and especially over the past four months during which he was confined to hospitals and lost Francesca. He saw through the pretensions of many in authority and found ways to support many ordinary people facing problems right around him. We will treasure our wonderful memories of him through the coming years with lots of love.
    - Narendra Subramanian and Minakshi Menon, Montreal

  3. Sam was truly a "mountain lion" from his shaggy yet immaculate mane and majestic bearing to his righteous roar. As his student I tried my best to be like him. It was an impossible task. He was the king of lions. My family and I shall miss both him and Francesca always. We mourn with all those who knew him and loved him as we did.

    Harmala Gupta, New Delhi,India

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I had a chance to visit Sam a few weeks ago and spend an hour with him. We spoke about Francesca and his struggles over the past summer. He had a smile that day and I was so sure he was going to pull through. He was sure too and told me he couldn't wait to go home. I will always remember his generosity, humor and cherish the memories of our dinners at Alep restaurant with our friends. Rest in peace Sam, I'm glad I saw you one last time but wish you were still with us.

    Leo Kolivakis, Montreal

  6. The Noumoffs were well known to the Gutkinds and I have only fond memories of them both. My Father, Professor Peter Gutkind ( Anthropology at McGill who died in 2001 ) and Sam were only a handful of radical professors and also brilliant teachers. No doubt they disagreed on many issues but they fought for the world to be a better place. I took Sam's "Revolution" course which was excellent. Sam and Francesca were eccentric, captivating and very, very good people. I am pleased this site has been set up to remember them and it is a sad day and sad times, for sure. Katherine Gutkind

  7. Sam was an inspiring teacher. I came to Montreal many years ago to study with him at McGill. We had lost touch over the years, but I'm thankful I was able to thank him when I visited him recently at the hospital with James. He was a courageous man of principle who never backed down from what he believed was necessary to fight injustice and oppression.
    Steve Orlov

  8. I am saddened to hear that Professor Noumoff has passed away. I remember him as a scholar who inspired his students to think that another world is possible. He was a man of moral integrity. Maimire, Montreal

  9. I have known Sam longer than most. We met in D.C. as under graduate students in a special inter university program at American University. I guess the year was 1956. We were thrown together as roommates in one of the university dorms. Sam, a chain smoker, and I a non smoker. I with a preppy background and Sam a rebellious Jewish boy from the Bronx. We hit it off and be came life long friends. He was drafted in the army and was stationed in France. He later attended the Sorbornne and eventually went on to McGill. I pursued a career in the military and then went on to be a hospital administrator at NYU. Over the years we occasionally met but always stayed in touch-the closest of friends. Whenever Sam had the "sniffles" the phone would ring and I would be expected to rally the specialists at NYU for a diagnosis. Francesca was Sam's sidekick. She idolized him. He had saved her from an abusive Army sergeant when he was stationed in France. Right now I am sitting looking up at a picture Sam gave me of a young North Vietnamese peasant woman with a rifle over her shoulder writing a letter. Sam had spent time there while we were bombing the hell out of the place.
    Sam had a profound intellect, and uncanny foresight. He influenced many young academics, as well as world leaders in the developing countries.
    The world will sorely miss Sam! George Nagle

  10. I visited Prof. Noumoff in the hospital a few weeks ago and we had a pleasant conversation. I also spent an hour with him the day he passed away. He was a remarkable person and good friend who will be sadly missed. RIP to both Sam and his beloved Francesca

  11. I am sorry very much for my dear friend Sam. I received the message today, because for a few days I was outside of Havana.
    With all my pain, rest in peace my dear friend.
    Esteban Morales Dominguez, Havana, Cuba

  12. I was heart broken to learn about Prof Sam Noumoff''s passing on November 28th via an E-Mail from a common friend.
    I cane to know him through another Professor friend of mine the late Khalid bin Sayeed(McGill) who taught at Queens University Kingston Ontario.
    As a social science Librarian at McGill I was responsible for selecting books in a couple of subjects including Political Science and Third World Studies.
    I would often as k Sam for his input and advice on what is of current interest to his department and he was always generous with his time and input.
    I will not forget his battle in securing tenure in the Department because of his open support of the Oppressed of the world.
    He and I became very close friends over the years. He even asked me to get in touch with some so called Radicals on the campus Faculty.
    I had the honour of hosting him and his lovely wife to our home. They were gracious to invite me and my wife to their home.
    After retiring from McGill we both maintained close touch via Internet.Sam with his vast and passionate love for information will share many that he thought will be of interest to me.
    I would have never found them on my own.
    As an anecdote when his e-Mails stopped, I got worried and sent him many e-mails but no response..
    Luckily I have his home phone number. When I called that number I got the message that Voice mail is full. That got me really scared! Sam was hospitalised before at the Jewish General Hospital a few years back and I did visit him then there.
    Using my hunch I called the Hospital and I did find he was there. I was able to speak to him there. It was then that I found the sad news of passing of his wife . It was very sad day for me. I was very fond of Franseca.
    After that phone call I was unable to reach him.
    In desperation I asked the Hospital to give me the phone number of the Nurse on his floor.I did speak to her a few times and she assured me he was OK.I was perplexed when to my question why is not answering phone. Her reply was he cannot reach the phone.
    How I wish I had gone in person to see him. In fact it was my intention to visit him this week. But the news shattered. when I got that e-mail informing he is no more with us!
    Sam we will never forget you. May you both rest in Peace!
    Syed Naseer Montreal

  13. As an inspiring teacher committed to the cause of social justice and socialism, Samuel J. Noumoff evoked robust admiration among most of his students; he had a life-long impact on many of them, with whom he remained connected throughout his life. Though China and East Asia were at the epicentre of his academic concerns, his interests encompassed the entire globe, most particularly the developing world. In his teaching, he brought to bear the direct experience of his interactions with the leaders and cadres of revolutionary movements around the world. The early years after Sam joined McGill University in 1967 were a time of turmoil in the world; McGill University, its Department of Political Science in particular, did not remain unaffected by it. Overcoming the hurdles that the bitterness of the turmoil left behind in its trail, Sam went on to make an inestimable contribution to the advancement of learning through the promotion of East Asian studies at the university and through providing strong leadership as the Director of the Centre of Developing-Area Studies. His scholarship was published in the Pacific Affairs, the Economic and Political Weekly, and numerous other academic outlets around the world. As a member of McGill’s Senate and Board of Governors, he played an invaluable role in university governance, ever watchful about due process and the protection of individual rights. In personal friendships, Sam was ever so generous and also willing and able to bridge any ideological divide that may have existed.

    Baldev Raj Nayar (Ottawa; former colleague at McGill)

  14. Sam was a remarkable man, who lived a remarkable life.
    He was a warm, generous, and helpful colleague and friend, both inside and outside of McGill. The finality of his passing weighs heavily on us all.

    Jerome Black

  15. My father, Professor Peter Gutkind & mother Alice Gutkind were friends of Sam & Francesca. I really only new them when I was a child & teenager and my parents had them over for dinner parties. They were my favourite guests! I loved Sam's bushy hair, which was not unlike my father's and Francesca’s long locks. As a child, I always felt very much at ease talking to Sam. Even though he was an academic, I did not feel intimidated by his intellectualism, as I so often did with some of the adults that visited my parent’s home. His gentleness impressed me. His loss is a sad day indeed.

    Gabrielle (Gutkind) Taylor

  16. He was great man, a great McGill Senator, May he rest in pace!

  17. Thanks very much for sending me the sad news. I’m travelling in Europe
    this week and next, and I’m very sorry that I won’t be in Montreal on
    the 9th. I will always remember Sam for the great exchanges we had
    when we taught together Pol Sci 231, together with John Shingler and
    James Tully; but also for his devotion and tremendous kindness to our
    students. He was an exceptional teacher.
    Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, McGill

  18. As a mentor he was able to value and appreciate the talents of others, gently offering advice while providing support and encouragement as needed. Although I was not a student in his department, I had the good fortune of meeting him when he was the Director of the Centre for Developing Area Studies (CDAS) at McGill. I have been in contact with him ever since. I have fond memories of him sitting in his office behind stacks of books and papers, conversing with him as he took his routine smoking breaks, or simply meeting him for a meal off campus, or in his home. I recall helping him pack his office when he decided to retire,and was intrigued by the various stories that accompanied the numerous trinkets, pictures with international dignitaries, and gifts that he had received over the years. I am still struggling with accepting his demise, particularly since I was with him and Francesca when he underwent major surgery shortly after their return from Spain. He was determined to recover, and he seemed to be finding his way. Last year, after a meal together in Chateauguay, he expressed his frustrations with his health challenges, but in his usual comforting style, he told me not to worry and that he would keep me informed. Life is indeed precious and too short. He has left an indelible impression on so many people. Like many, I am thankful for his friendship, and I will cherish the time that I was able to spend with him. As always, with my utmost respect and love, I will miss you, 'Dr Noumoff'.
    Elaine Correa, Buffalo, New York

  19. I am sorry not to be there on the 9th. What an overwhelming outpouring of love for Sam from all over the world. I knew him well in MFU days, through CDAS, and as one of a motley collection of poker players who met regularly in the early 1970s! You couldn't ask for a more diverse gang, from a conservative judge of the Quebec bench through a McGill VP, all the way to tenured but mostly untenured faculty. Politically we ranged from the right to the Trotskyites. Don't have to tell you where Sam stood, but an unwritten rule of the game--no politics! I remember driving in from St. Lambert in blizzards, and Sam from Chateauguay, but we never failed to show up if we had given our word to attend at some one's home in the city. Sam was like that, steady, reliable, with a twinkle in his eye , and above all, kindness for the underdog. I wish I had a photo of him, with his red suspenders, his cigarette holder, and sometimes even with a green visor to shield his eyes from the light, and from other players. His advocacy at McGill was legendary as others have already noted. I will miss him dearly. Myron Echenberg, History, McGill

  20. Prof. Sam Noumoff, 1935-2014
    We would like to pay tribute to the memory of an exemplary anti-imperialist intellectual and fighter, Sam Noumoff, who passed away recently in Montreal a short time after the death of his beloved wife, Francesca.
    This is a huge loss because across Canada there are too few teachers, professors and intellectuals like Prof. Noumoff ready to stand by their dialectical, Marxist, pro-people and anti-imperialist principles in the face of ferocious pressure from within and without the academic world.
    We sought out many times Prof. Noumoff’s support for the struggle of the people of the Philippines against US imperialism and local reaction. He never failed to lend his support in whatever form he could. He even went to the guerrilla zones of the New People’s Army to better understand the revolutionary struggle still underway in the Philippines via the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
    Also, how many Canadian intellectuals of his stature have stood up so consistently for the right of the people of North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to build a society based on their own socialist ideals and goals in the face of constant war threats and imperialist bullying? Recently Prof. Noumoff had been encouraging us in our effort to renew friendship links between the people of Canada and the DPRK, even though he could not attend our meetings because of his illness.
    In his life and deeds, from the time he decided to move to Canada during the Vietnam War and the many struggles that followed, Prof. Noumoff clearly demonstrated that it is possible for intellectuals to oppose the dominant capitalist system and ideology and resist the pressure to serve it in the academic world. He showed it is possible to come down from the ivory tower and be one with the people.
    Many students who passed through McGill University were profoundly marked by the time they spent with Prof. Noumoff, as were his many friends and comrades from around the globe.
    Together with them, today we honour a man and his legacy and promise to continue the anti-imperialist struggles that he espoused and fought so hard to promote and defend.
    Vive Sam Noumoff! Sam Noumoff, Presente!
    Malcolm Guy
    For the Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples Struggle - Canada

  21. Sam Noumoff will always be remembered as a sincere friend who went out of his ways to tender advice and help when needed. He was one of my thesis advisors when I did my Ph.D. at McGill University in the early 1980's. He also showered accolades I do not believe I deserved and got me a teaching job at Concordia University in 1986 - a job I still hold. I have mentioned his name as an invaluable mentor when I had my book on Haile Selassie published in 2006: (Reviewed in the Canadian Journal of Political Science / Volume 40 / Issue 04 / December 2007, pp 1059-1060) a copy of which I signed as a compliment to his name but was told that he had gone to Spain. I was waiting his return to give him the book but I heard his passing before I succeeded to do so. I regret that I was not able to see him and give him this book during his last days in hospital. But Sam will always be remembered by me as a shining example of a sincere scholar who dedicated his life to the cause of the downtrodden, particularly of the South whose cause he championed through the Centre for Developing Area Studies of McGill University which he headed for many years. This is a scholar with unbendable principle who stayed the course even when his most trusted progressive colleagues abandoned the ship following the implosion of the Soviet Union and China’s adaption of fundamental and thorough going NEP. Sam has embarked, he has made the journey and he has come ashore. At the twilight between life and death, I surmise he went smiling to the joy of being received by those he fought for in the world of ideas. May he rest in peace!
    Paulos Milkias Ph.D.
    Concordia University
    Montréal, QC

  22. Sam’s influence on so many of us was transformative. Nobody contributed more to my worldview and analysis. Through taking all of Sam’s courses starting in 1967, working for Sam during the summer of 1969 and at McGill’s Centre for East Asian Studies from 1970-75, Sam influenced the rest of my life. The summer I worked for Sam I researched the social impacts of eugenics, one of Sam’s many concerns. Sam would provide his inimitable Platonic guidance. He would lend me books from his library. Another Sam classmate, Hidipo Himutenya who a few years ago was a Namibian presidential candidate, recounted that Sam loaned us books by old China hands such as Jack Belden, Agnes Smedly, Edgar Snow, etc.
    After Sam introduced me to Paul Lin, I worked at McGill’s CEAS for Paul and Sam. Sam was Acting Director during Paul’s frequent travels. We supported the opening of China’s relations with Canada and the US, closely monitored China’s unfolding Cultural Revolution, and welcomed Paul’s stream of visitors, among them Bill Hinton, Joseph Needham, and Han Suyin. Following those years I moved to China and the US but Sam stayed in close touch. He sent his publications. Select titles include: “THE GAME OF TURKEY, OR HOW TO ROAST PEKING DUCK”, dated 2013 about the Peking Duck recently playing a better strategic military game than has the Washington turkey. Earlier titles are self-explanatory: “Is Socialism Dead?” 1990/“Current Trends in the World Economy” 1989/“Transnational Corporations’ Investment in China: A View from the Outside” 1986/“China’s Entry into the World Market: Opportunities and Dangers” 1985/“Mao and the Socialist Transition” 1985/“The Philosophic Basis of the Theory of Social Transformation in China”, Sam’s 1975 PhD thesis/“The Dialectic and China” 1968/“The Origin and Development of the Cultural Revolution in China” 1967.
    Sam shared his moving eulogies for Paul Lin and others.
    Whenever I published something Sam replied with praise. Sometimes he sent constructive ideas to expand my arguments. Sam had a wonderful way of valuing people’s accomplishments and making them feel proud.
    When Sam changed planes in Beijing during his mid-1970s travel to N Korea, we met at the Beijing airport where he regaled me with stories about N Korean leaders. I reciprocated with descriptions of Chinese political events including the death of Chairman Mao, the downfall of the Gang of Four, and the rise of Hua Guofeng.
    Knowing my passion for classical ballet, Sam bought me a volume on the renowned Vaganova “School of Classical Ballet” during his 1980s visit to Russia. When he would drop me off by car at my Montreal ballet classes, he always enthusiastically wished me a great class. He regularly forwarded links to ballet performance videos.
    Sam loved to introduce me to friends in countries I visited including China, India and Thailand. In 1982, Sam’s Thai friend gave me a memorable midnight tour of some of Bangkok’s seediest brothels.
    After I established Gender Action in 2002, Sam forwarded stories about discrimination against women. I suspect that he deliberately searched for stories relevant to my work.
    Sam proudly shared anecdotes about his friendship with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. Sam had advised Zhu to require foreign technology transfers in all joint ventures. Implementing Sam’s advice provided a catalyst to China’s economic takeoff.
    Sam was always there for me and his many other friends. When I had surgery, Sam would call to check on me and provide encouragement. He invariably signed his emails “warmest” or “love”, reflecting the warm love he bestowed upon me and so many others. Whenever I told Sam that he was my lifelong mentor, he proudly beamed. I last visited Sam in May this year during my last visit to Montreal.
    Sam’s inspiring legacy is to try to follow his example of being kind, compassionate, and supportive and working to attain justice for everyone. It will be hard to match Sam’s huge legacy.
    Elaine Zuckerman, Washington DC, USA

  23. I will always be indebted to Sam, who showed me the humane side of McGill and helped me through my early pre-tenure moments of self doubt. He was also an inspiration for activists within the university, always helping faculty, staff and students fight the good fight. He also was very supportive of young China scholars embarking on difficult research in times of flux. He will be sorely missed, Sandra Hyde, Montréal, QC

  24. I am saddened to hear that Professor Noumoff is no more with us. Although I had not been in contact for many years, I still do remember him as formidable personality. I am certain some of his thinking has rubbed off to us all. RIP.
    Anupam Sharma, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Many brilliant and wonderful people have already written to commemorate Professor Sam Noumoff, from Charles Taylor and James Putzel to numerous colleagues and former students. Their touching words have shown me different glimpses of his life. Some have written about his work on the McGill Senate and his unwavering support to faculty, administrative staff or workers treated unjustly in any manner in the university. Others wrote about his involvement in different political causes including in the movement against the Vietnam War before coming to Canada.

    I knew Professor Noumoff however first as a teacher, and later as a mentor and really a father figure. He has effectively been my most constant and closest mentor, advisor, confidante and friend for over a decade. His loss has been and will always be tremendous for me. I remain haunted by the fact that I was not able to say goodbye. He asked a friend to inform me that he was in hospital in August and I did not hear from him after that. I have had a dream where I finally get a reply to my last email and everything is back to normal. I had sent him two palm amulets (hamsa) from my latest travels and wanted to know what he thought of them. He saw them as good fortune charms and I was ecstatic when I found a new beautiful design, especially if it was small, because he liked the smaller ones. He used to create himself beautiful miniature figurines and once gave me one he had made, mounted on a small stone. It was always hard to find a gift for him because his house was after all a beautiful gallery full of all sorts of wonderful pieces from all over the world. It also hurts not to be able to console his wife. Her loss was clearly an immense blow in his last days, as perhaps his impending loss was to her. As tragic as it seems, this is perhaps testimony to their bond and the strength of their companionship.

    Professor Noumoff was a teacher who was able to inspire, support, motivate and empower. During my MA, he helped me obtain extensions on my course submission so that I could recover from an emotional difficulty. But he gave me only the grade I deserved on his course. This, I have remembered fondly and I cherish that he has always pushed me to refine my writing. He believed in me and thought highly of my work. Having this kind of recognition from him was on its own a major source of motivation for me. He also respected his students as scholars and independent thinkers. He did not try to impose his worldview or frameworks on their work or how he assessed it. I was mainly working from a different approach and he always had something insightful to say about my work; never addressing it solely from his own point of view, even if he of course had very strong ideological convictions.

    After leaving McGill, I came to see him almost as family; a kind of virtual uncle who was always there for me even if he was thousands of miles away. But he was no ordinary uncle. He was a light in my life that I could tap into just by sending an email and a solid wall to lean on whenever I needed. His concern, empathy and patience arrive to you completely, even with a few words- and no sentimentalism. I turned to him for advice on every academic and personal matter I encountered. His short sentences and strong views put clarity into my sometimes very jumbled thoughts. His generosity, wisdom and continuous support made it possible for me to always keep going, to get up whenever I was down and to be who I am.

    Professor Noumoff was a monumental man. He embodied a rare brand of integrity and concern for justice, and radiated a genuine kindness, generosity, deep worldly wisdom and a warrior spirit that remained with him till the end. I still cannot fully comprehend that he is gone. But I know that he will always be in my heart and the hearts of those he has touched. I will always be in his debt and I will always be grateful for his passing through my life. I hope I can honor his memory by being anything like the teacher, mentor and virtual godparent that he has been to me.
    Hania Sobhy, Cairo, Egypt

  27. Sam held a special place in my life. As one of my teachers in my first year at McGill Sam contributed to my enlightenment in many ways, but especially because of his extraordinary mastery of dialectics. I remember as though it was yesterday his analysis of the Chinese revolution as being in line with the centuries-old values of Confucianism (although unfortunately over time it was more the emergence of a Mandarin elite than the primacy of ethics that was to prevail). Of course, I also appreciate the readings he led us to, not the least of which was Barington Moore Jr. He was a great teacher and a man with style, with his unique delivery that gave you the impression he was thinking aloud and truly sharing his thoughts with you. I loved his way of pacing up and down the room, puffing away on his signature cigarette holder and I loved the almost Talmudic tone of his New York Jewish accent as he delved deeply and paradoxically into our conventional thinking. In retrospect, I think Sam was the professor I dreamt of having, to extend my father's (cruder, but not less inspired) Yiddish approach to politics (I'm sure he would surprised to be cast in this light), where the millennial hope of redemption is transformed into a secular Weltanschauung (another word he introduced into my vocabulary) that replaces religion with politics, but does not in any way dilute the hope of universal justice and reconciliation. I have, to a certain extent, become more "politically agnostic" over the years, but being privy to Sam Noumoff's inspiration and passion will remain one of the great privileges of my youth that I have carried with me throughout my life. I'm simply sorry I did not have the chance to say these things to him in person, but I am happy to be able to share them with you.

    Michel Celemenski

  28. Sam Noumoff was a dedicated academic and a committed political activist, different from most of each genre in that he did not, in fact would not and could not, make any distinction between the two. That integrity, combined with curiousity and compassion, was the central trait of his character and the fundamental operational principle of his remarkable life. True, it brought him heavy criticism, mostly from resentment of his ability to expose hypocrisy and opportunism, along with bountiful praise. He shrugged off the criticism, accepted with modesty and grace the praise, and carried on as before in the things in which he most believed – the obligation to tred fearlessly on political toes whether inside the university or across the world, and to respect in his own life and actions the principles he berated others for lacking. This was not so much a mark of courage, though that certainly abounded in Sam, but of simple conviction. Jack Weldon, long chair and in many ways the intellectual soul of the economics department in the days when it was partnered both administratively and intellectually with political science, used to say – there is only one Dreyfuss Case; we are just obligated to fight it again and again, in different forms and different fora at different times. Sam was the embodiment of that. It was not that he took delight in berating the complacent and the powerful – he just could not conceive of living any other way. Tom Naylor


Please leave your tributes, memories, reflections about Sam