Economics Professor and Concordia University Faculty Association (CUFA) president Morton Stelcner died suddenly on May 23. He was born in Poland and grew up in Montreal, earning his undergraduate degree at McGill and his graduate degrees at Syracuse University. He had taught at Concordia since 1967. The following is a tribute by his dear friend, Professor Harvey Shulman.
Morty Stelcner has died. It is difficult for his friends to find suitable words to express the depth of our loss. What personal insight can I offer about a close friend of 41 years who, from our high school days, never talked about himself or his own achievements?
I suppose I can tell you about the continuing praise and encouragement that he visited on Celia and me. We spoke daily, about everything. We reminisced about "the street," the neighborhood, joyous and sad times; we laughed at our increasingly apocryphal reconstruction of our youth, of how I was ahead of him in an accounting course (two weeks later, I withdrew), and especially about Concordia, a place he loved.
A few years back, he considered a very attractive job offer, but the economist who tried to get me to be more understanding of "market conditions" would choose Concordia because of loyalty, friendships and sentimentality. Morty knew how to count; more important, he knew what counted.
The many people he helped as president of CUFA are well aware of Morty's dedication and skills as conciliator, problem-solver, adversary, and frequently, as a tenacious and fearless advocate. He managed CUFA accounts with zealous frugality, but when he believed that the collective agreement was being misapplied, or CUFA's interests were not being adequately protected, he refused to drop a case because of the expense involved.
Morty was hard at work preparing for the upcoming CUFA-administration negotiations, and shaping our case to assure the proper recognition of our members, whom he strongly believed were over-worked and under-compensated. A day before his death, we talked about performance evaluation models, knowing full well that real teaching and research are about curiosity and ideas, not indicators, and service is what we do when we think beyond ourselves, not a committee assignment to add to a dossier.
Morty was, above all, a man of principle. His first principle was the protection of individuals against injustice. He avoided jurisdictional posturing, sloganeering and triumphalism.
Morty worried that the academic community did not appreciate the fact that the union is most successful when it is not being called on to battle arbitrary administrative authority, when due process and fairness are observed, and when faculty and librarians are able to devote energy to academic, not litigious, pursuits.
The frequently repeated bromide that everyone is replaceable is not true. Yes, Concordia will continue to exist, and we have accomplished people who will undoubtedly do whatever they must, but those of us who were Morty's familiars will experience a different and diminished Concordia without him.
This year, as part of the capital campaign, Dr. Stelcner, together with
his sister and her husband, established the Stelcner Family Prize, an endowment
to provide two awards for students in the Economics Co-op program. If you
would like to contribute to the fund, please make out a cheque to "Concordia
University/Stelcner Prize," and send it to David Brown, Director, Capital
Gifts, Concordia University, Room BC-316. A commemorative service is planned
Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.