Dr (William) Peter Adams obituary

Born 1936, died 2018. A graduate of the Department of Geography (BA Geography 1958) and the School of Education (Dip Education 1959)

It is with sadness that we share that [William] Peter Adams passed away on September 28th at the age of 82 .

Peter is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jill, his children Joanne (Ken), Michèle (Kevin), Annette (Mark), and Will (Adriana), as well as his grandchildren John, Matthew, Nathan, Anne, Marie, Adam, Aaron, Amélie, and Sofia. In England, Peter will be missed by his siblings Christine (Colin), Gareth (Angela), Glenys (Philip), and Kevin (Liz), as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends around the world.

Peter was born on April 17th, 1936 in Ellesmere Port, England, a small village on the River Mersey, where he grew up during WWII. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, where he met Jill and started competing in track and field running events. With a Carnegie Arctic Scholarship, Peter moved to Montreal in 1959 to attend McGill and complete his Ph.D. in Geography and Glaciology. Working in the Arctic with Fritz Muller on the Axel Heiberg Expedition inspired a lifelong passion for Northern research on snow and ice. Jill moved from England to join him in Montreal and they were married on September 24, 1960.

After a three year research period at the McGill Subarctic Research Station in Labrador, and brief periods in Britain and France, Peter and Jill settled in Peterborough, where Peter and Jill have lived for over 50 years. Peter became the Founding Chair of the Trent University Geography Department where he involved many students in his Arctic research projects. He also continued running, completing many marathons, including Boston and the Midnight Sun (Nunavut).

Later, Peter became involved in many events and organizations in Peterborough; chairing the Ontario Summer Games and working with numerous organizations such as Participaction Peterborough, Snofest, Trent Valley Archives, Canadian Hearing Society, Family Literacy Day, United Way, YMCA, Midwinter Half Marathon, St. John's Church, Energy Savers Peterborough, Hospice Peterborough, Peterborough Liberal Associations, and Trent-Peterborough-Malawi Project, and others, meant a great deal to him.

As well, Peter belonged to numerous associations, including the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, International Glaciological Soci​ety, Royal Canadian Institute, and the Arctic Institute of North America, and spent several years in Ottawa working for the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies. ​Peter’s passion for field-based research, combined with his determination to communicate the results of his work, led to many publications, ranging from over sixty peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, through several books – both monograph and edited - to dozens of reviews, newspaper and magazine articles. According to his university colleagues, Peter’s greatest achievement lies in his voluminous published research on ice and snow and, in particular, his glaciological work on Axel Heiberg Island (Nunavut), which continues today and represents the world’slongest continuous study of its kind in the high Arctic. They believe that this work is of incomparable value in understanding climate and climatic change in that Polar region.

Politics became increasingly important to Peter, first as a Trustee on the Board of Education, then as MPP (1987-1990), and eventually as Member of Parliament (1993-2006), where he served as member of the Privy Council of Canada.​ Peter proudly served in the government of Premier David Peterson in Ontario, as well as federally, under Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. He had a leading role in the area of post-secondary education, in particular the creation of the Millennial Scholarships Foundation and the Canada Research Chairs.

After he retired from politics, Peter joined Jill in her international volunteer work. Together, they worked with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) in Bangladesh, Uganda, Honduras, and India. In 2014, they joined Joanne's school volunteer trip to Guatemala. Also very important to Peter in his later years was his work with Casa de Angelae.

Peter's lifestyle changed drastically in 2014 when he was diagnosed with cancer; however, his passion and hard work for education, athletics and service never ceased. Even when he was weak and in pain, he continued writing, walking and meeting.

Peter's children and grandchildren will miss his distinctive family whistle and his unusual texts. Texting became Peter's favourite communication tool and he had numerous codes, which we assumed were from WWII spy stories.

In 2010 Peter received an Honorary Degree from Trent University, and in 2012 he was made a member of the Order of Ontario.

Special thanks go to everyone in the Peterborough medical community, and to Jill and Peter’s neighbours and friends, for their kindness and care. Peter’s family respectfully request that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Peter's memory to Casa de Angelae or the Peterborough Regional Health Centre.

Submitted by Dr Daniel B. Ellis (BSc Biochemistry 1958), Peter's friend of 63 years after first meeting at Sheffield.