Friday, December 12, 2014

Pictures from Sam and Francesca Noumoff Memorial Celebration


Sam and Francesca Noumoff Memorial Celebration Presentations

Nearly one hundred people attended the memorial celebration for Sam and Francesca Noumoff held at the Cote-des Neiges Funeral Centre on December 9th at 1 PM. The ceremony was conducted by Dr.Joyce Canfield, a close friend of the family for over four decades. Colleagues from McGill University, friends, retired professors and long time employees of McGill --some of whom travelled long distances--graced the occasion.  There were a large number of former students, who were inspired by him, community activists, Consular officials, local Montreal Chinese community newspaper publishers and as well as close friends of Francesca who made the trip from New York and Ottawa to honour their memory. While moving eulogies were made on Sam's integrity, commitment, convictions and his mentoring approach to all who interacted with him, there were also the humorous recollections of Sam's skills at delivering velvet gloved, iron fisted critiques of the establishment. McGIll University lowered its flag over the main administrative building in recognition of Sam's lifelong contributions and presence in the University on the 10th of December. The ceremony was accompanied by a video display of Sam and Francesca's pictures from memorable occasions in the past and as well as photographs from their house. A small brochure was also distributed for the occasion. The ceremony was concluded by the serving of food and drinks. We are posting the prepared speeches of some of the speakers. Professors Naylor and Chossudovsky delivered extempore eulogies and will send in their thoughts later. 

Presentation by Prof Baldev Raj Nayar

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Memorial for Sam

Friends are invited to celebrate this special man and share memories at 1PM on 9 December at Centre Funeraire Cote-des-Neiges, 4525 Cote-des-Neiges Road, Montreal.

Friday, November 28, 2014


From his arrival at McGill in1967 to his retirement in 2006, Sam was a champion of the marginalized and mistreated. He was a fierce advocate for colleagues in tenure, grievance, and appeal hearings. He was also a committed campus activist who supported progressive causes for 40 years, from his efforts to unionize faculty in the early 70s to his support for striking staff in recent years. Sam’s activism was probably most visible when he was a member of the McGill Senate and represented the Faculty of Arts -- a position he held for much of his time at McGill. An old-school orator with a sonorous voice and a passion for justice, Sam’s speeches enlivened dull sessions and kept generations of administrators on their toes. But it was in his role as advisor, mentor, and advocate that Sam probably had his most profound influence. Dozens of students and academic and non-academic colleagues turned to Sam at desperate times, and he never refused assistance. He made McGill a more just, humane, and ethical place. He will be sorely missed.   Sam died on 26 November at age 79, only weeks after the sudden death of his beloved wife, Francesca. Friends are invited to celebrate this special man and share memories at 1PM on 9 December at Centre Funeraire Cote-des-Neiges, 4525 Cote-des-Neiges Road, Montreal.   A website where friends and colleagues can post messages also welcomes your remembrances.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some pictures of Sam


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]