Eastman, Harry C

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VP (Research & Planning) 1977-1979; VP (Research & Planning) and Registrar 1979-1981

Chair, Department of Political Economy 1974-1977

Associate Dean, SGS 1964-1969

President, Canadian Economics Association 1971-1972


The following appeared in the [Department of Economics newsletter, Tradeoffs, Spring 1999], edited by John Floyd:

"Harry C. Eastman --- 1923-1999

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Harry Eastman on April 20, 1999. The following is an excerpt from remarks by his friend George Connell, former President of the University, at a memorial service in his honour in Hart House, University of Toronto.

Harry Eastman was a faculty member at the University of Toronto from 1953 to his retirement in 1989. During that time he became one of Canada's preeminent economists, serving as president of the Canadian Economics Association in 1971-72, and being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1974.

In his early years Harry had a very productive partnership with Stefan Stykolt, building upon Stefan's expertise in industrial organization and Harry's in international trade. The partnership produced five important papers in the late fifties and early sixties and a book, The Tariff and Competition in Canada, published in 1967. This book was one of the most important foundations for the MacDonald Royal Commission, and, eventually, for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Harry served the University in several other key roles. From 1964 to 1969 he served as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the humanities and social sciences. In that capacity he became a member of a committee to consider the future of the School of Graduate Studies. The chair was Bora Laskin, later to be Chief Justice. Among the other members where Ernest Sirluck, the Dean of Graduate Studies, Northrop Frye and John Polanyi. Claude Bissell, in Halfway up Parnassus, described this Committee as "the strongest internal committee in the history of the University of Toronto". Sirluck observed in his autobiography that "At the outset, only Eastman, Winegard and I were unequivocally in favour of a unitary school....", the view that eventually prevailed. The Laskin model for graduate studies was adopted and maintained for the next thirty years.

Harry chaired the Department of Political Economy from 1974 to 1977, following in the footsteps of Innis, Bladen, Ashley, Easterbrook and Dupré. It was the largest department in Canada of any in the social sciences or humanities, and probably the most distinguished. He might well have been relieved to move to the peace and quiet of Simcoe Hall in 1977 when he became Vice-President for Research and Planning. In addition to assuming these responsibilities, Harry became University Registrar, and led the administrative team in collective bargaining with the Faculty Association. At this task Harry proved to be outstanding. He was successful because he was intelligent, resolute, and absolutely unflappable.

Harry's whole career was excellent preparation for his major contribution to sane policy formation and administration at the federal level. In April 1984 the Governor General appointed Harry as Commissioner to report on the pharmaceutical industry in Canada. Ten months later he delivered the report, an achievement that was absolutely unique in this age of inquiries that turn into careers. The Report marked the beginning of a new and more rational phase of regulation of the pharmaceutical industry in Canada. It also led to Harry's appointment as the founding chair of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, a position that he held until 1996. The issues before the Board were intensely controversial; powerful corporate interests were aligned on either side of every dispute. Yet the Board did exactly what the legislation instructed it to do.

Harry and I discovered only a few years ago that we shared a passion for alpine skiing. In Harry's case it was in his blood. Growing up in Geneva, he was only a few miles from the highest peaks of the French Alps. He was an elegant skier, not flamboyant, very compact and controlled. He despised the groomed piste, and was constantly on the lookout for powder, for ungroomed bumps and untracked glades. I can picture him skiing down a gentle slope in front of me and then suddenly veering away to disappear over a ledge. I would peer over to see him far below, picking his way through formidable obstacles with a cloud of powder behind him. We skied at Whistler in B.C., at Alta in Utah, at Squaw Valley in California, but the best of all was Val d'Isère in France. This was Harry's mountain home, where his ancestors herded goats and made cheese, the renowned reblochon fermier of the Haute Savoi.

The great love of Harry's life was Sheila (formerly Sheila McQueen) his wife of many years, who passed away in 1991 after a long illness. She was otherwise known as Professor Sheila Eastman, a faculty member of long-standing in the Department of Economics.

"I emerged from hospital this evening feeling fine as indeed I have ever since being admitted. The improvement in my state of mind was substantially aided by George's visit and that super cheese. I have relatives still in Auvergne (the home of Cantal cheese). I do face the ingestion of many chemicals to stabilize my heart which cannot be operated on at least in its present state. But I will be able to play tennis shortly.

This message speaks to two of Harry's personal qualities, apart from his commitment to tennis. The first was his strong feeling for cheese. He valued his familial and other personal links to the fine cheeses of the world , and especially those of France. But it also speaks to his attitude to his afflictions. Although he was fully aware of the seriousness of his illness, he refused to let it dominate his life. He was courageous and confident and life-affirming almost to his last breath.

Harry Eastman was a loving husband father and grandfather, a notable scholar and teacher, a gifted administrator, policy maker and public servant, a congenial companion. We shall miss him.

by George Connell

Other links: [1]

Personal Reflections

In Memorium: Harry Eastman

Harry Eastman’s intellect, wit, elegance, and courtesy were all remarkable in themselves. Together, they made him the exceptional friend we so admired and now will sadly miss and long remember.
Harry Eastman had a distinguished career as an economist and administrator at the University of Toronto and beyond. At the University of Toronto, he was Chairman of the Dept. of Political Economy, a very large and prestigious department, and later was the university’s Vice-President (Planning and Research). The Government of Canada appointed him Commissioner, Commission of Inquiry on the Pharmaceutical Industry, and he was Chairman of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board for some years.
Two particular episodes involving him have stayed with me. They go back much farther, to our university days, the first to the mid-1960s and the other to about a decade later. They have something curious in common. Besides showing two different sides of him, they involve the two most fateful turning points in any academic career — the Oral Defence of the PhD thesis and the meeting of a tenure committee. The first episode was a trifle; the second was deadly serious.

One must know that, at the University of Toronto, at both of these turning points, the candidate’s fate is in hands of a small committee, usually of about 6 to 8 members, whose verdict may well mean the extinction of the candidate’s academic career. In both cases, it takes only two negative votes to turn the candidate down. (Abstention, even if permitted, counts as a negative vote.)
The first episode occurred at lunch in the Faculty Club. Harry and I and two others whom I can’t recall were at a table. It was before the era of the “Long Table,” and so must have been in the mid-60s. At the time, Harry was Associate Dean of the graduate school and therefore ultimately responsible for every PhD Oral Defence in his Division. Most difficult or messy cases would have landed on his desk. They may not have been numerous, but each could have been troublesome. No one could have been more aware of the pitfalls of an Oral Defence. On this occasion, he mentioned that right after lunch he had to participate in a PhD oral exam about which he was uneasy. One of our colleagues at the table, who should have known better, asked, “Why are you worried, Harry? Aren’t these occasions just a formality?” “Yes,” Harry answered with a smile, “when they are.”
The second episode, about tenure, occurred in his department when he was chairman. The responsibility for organizing and conducting a tenure “hearing” falls directly and heavily on the departmental chairman. It’s a troubling business. The procedures are many and complex. He is ultimately responsible for all of them, and any error of commission or omission is almost certain to result in an appeal if the candidate is turned down.
Furthermore, the chairman must conduct the meeting himself and is a voting member of the Tenure Committee. He must, like everyone else, express his evaluation of the candidate before the vote. (After the vote, the signed ballots are opened and each member’s verdict is disclosed.) All in all, not an enviable task. Silence is not an option for committee members. It would have been my own preference as an outsider. I was there because the graduate school had to be represented on the committee, and it fell to me as the Associate Dean of the Division.
The meeting was difficult. Although the candidate had strong support, one senior member of the department was adamantly opposed. He was a “heavyweight,” well known and respected throughout the university, articulate and outspoken. He seemed unshakeable. A single negative vote is not critical, but another committee member let it be known that he was undecided. The discussion and debate continued as usual while the evidence was presented, but the issue remained in doubt. Eventually Harry pitched in. He had read the candidate’s major work, he said, in preparation for this meeting, and found that its calibre supported a motion for tenure.
The “leader of the opposition” then began to question Harry about that work. Harry answered his questions patiently and, I thought, thoroughly. But the questioning persisted until it seemed to imply that perhaps Harry knew less about the work in question than he claimed. I saw the corners of Harry’s mouth draw back in a grimace and his clenched teeth showed. “Are you suggesting that I’m lying?” he asked quietly, as everyone caught his breath. “No, no, not at all,” the questioner replied. What else he said, I can’t recall. It didn’t matter. It was game over even though the meeting continued for a while. I don’t remember how the adamant colleague voted, but the candidate was granted tenure, so the confrontation obviously dislodged the undecided member from the fence.
Is it any wonder that Harry was so widely admired throughout the university?

Leo Zakuta
4 April, 2000

Quoted, with kind permission off the author, from: Zakuta, Annette.Leo Zakuta: Reminiscences, Rants and Raves. Toronto: Iquana Books, 2013.