The Lakehead University community was saddened to learn that Dr. Min-sun Chen, Professor Emeritus of History, passed away on May 18, six months short of his 100th birthday.
Min-sun was born on November 19, 1921 in Changsha, Hunan, China. He joined the Department of History in 1966 and taught Chinese and Japanese history full-time until his mandatory retirement in 1986.
A quiet, dedicated, and dignified individual with a deep sense of commitment to the Department of History and Lakehead University, he took great pride in his roles across the university as a faculty member and as Chair of the Department between 1978 and 1984.
Min-sun received his PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 1971 and quickly established himself as a well-respected specialist in East Asian history, with many of his publications exploring Sino-Western relations.
Throughout his career and life, he remained committed to expanding and disseminating knowledge about Asia in Canada with organizations such as the Canadian Asian Studies Association. In 2015, the American Historical Association recognized Min-sun with a lifetime membership for, at the time, over 50 years of continuous membership and engagement.
Locally, Min-sun played a key role in working with local high school teachers (many of whom were alumni) in establishing the Thunder Bay Branch of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (now the Canadian International Council).
Its relationship with the Department of History has resulted in hundreds of speakers presenting to the university, including former Canadian prime ministers and ambassadors from around the world. Min-sun was also a long-time member of Trinity United Church.
After retirement, Min-sun remained a vital member of the Department, teaching courses for the next 20 years on a sessional/contract lecturer basis.
A life-long supporter of domestic and international students and access to education, he established an endowed research award in history in 1991 and, along with his wife, the late Dr. Anita Beltran Chen (Professor Emeritus Sociology), the Lakehead University 30th Anniversary International Graduate Award in the Social Science and Humanities.
In 2017, a generous donation from Min-sun and Anita resulted in the establishment of the International Student Lounge in the lower level of the Chancellor Paterson Library.
Until recently, there was never a public event at the university that Min-sun and Anita did not grace with their attendance. And he was always so cheerful and happy to greet everyone, almost as a long-lost friend. When visiting the department, he would always bring a printout of humorous sayings, little life lessons and advice to share with those around him.
The last of the first generation of historians recruited by the late Dr. Tom Miller in the first years of Lakehead University, Min-sun will be remembered with much affection by those who worked and studied with him. It must be said that some of us thought he would go on forever, so indestructible did he seem!
As per Min-sun's wishes, cremation has taken place. Services and internment at Riverside Cemetery will take place in the future.
Online condolences for Min-sun can be made at this Everest Funeral Chapel Tribute page.
The flag at Lakehead Thunder Bay will be lowered to half-mast in honour of Min-sun on Tuesday, May 25.