Professor Robert F. Harney, a renowned scholar in the field of migration and ethnic studies, founded the MHSO and served as its Academic Director from its establishment until his death in 1989.
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Harney received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. For twenty-five years, he taught history at the University of Toronto where he stimulated and steered an entire generation of students. In 1989, he was appointed to the newly-endowed Professorship and Program in Ethnic, Immigration, and Pluralism Studies. Following his death, this collaborative graduate program was renamed the Robert F. Harney Professorship and Program in his honour.
The MHSO’s guiding spirit for over a decade, Harney forged the Society into an internationally renowned institution for research and publishing on the histories of migration and ethnicity. Recognized as “a pioneer in the ethnocultural approach, Harney utilized the memory culture as well as the historical records of the immigrants themselves” in his work.