In Memoriam: J. Anthony (Tony) Blair (1941-2024)

Tony BlairClose up shot of Tony Blair's pensive face.

The Department is saddened to learn of the death of Tony Blair, after a fall on March 7th. His membership in the department stretched from 1967 until his retirement in 2006, and during that time he was a tireless supporter of our programs and our students. His research in informal logic and argumentation theory brought him wide renown throughout the world, and this exposure reflected favourably on the University of Windsor and the Department of Philosophy.

            Tony’s achievements within the University and in the broader academic community were numerous. He served as Department Head for two separate terms, covering seven years. And he sat on numerous committees. He was not only the founder and editor of the journal Informal Logic (a journal which was ranked highest among Humanities journals in SSHRC’s last competition), but with Ralph Johnson he was a primary force behind the emergence and development of Informal Logic in North America, announcing the University of Windsor as the place where this widely-influential movement began.

            Professor Blair’s concern for students was unwavering. He was dedicated both inside and outside the classroom. He taught where the Department needed him to teach – without fuss and with enthusiasm – and he supervised many MA students. His generosity of time and spirit extended to students to whom he was not formally assigned. Other professors in the Department would see him walking by and pull him into their office to chat with a student who had questions on a subject matter in one of Professor Blair’s areas of expertise. He could be found talking to many students who were neither in his classes nor under his supervision. Visiting students and visiting scholars also benefitted from his generosity and expertise.

            Tony not only cared deeply about the students of the Department, but he also appreciated the staff with whom he came into contact and for whom he was responsible. As a “boss” he was both flexible and reasonable, always considerate of the needs of others regardless of whether a situation might inconvenience him. He constantly amazed people with his patience and tolerance, managing an unending number of meetings and bureaucratic “stuff” that took away from his other responsibilities to students and his own research.  He always made time for others, no matter what they asked of him or when they asked it.

He was also a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation (ISSA), serving on its executive for almost 20 years.  From 1986 onwards, every four years he was in attendance at the Society’s conference without fail. This continued through 2023 even though during his last decade he was afflicted by the progressive indignities of Parkinson’s disease. At the 2023 conference in Leiden, Tony was a final speaker in the last slot. The room was completely packed, with people standing out in the corridor. Unfortunately, he had left his talk in his hotel room and lost the USB stick on which it was saved. But he was determined not to disappoint his expectant audience. After a few hesitations, he delivered his talk with flair and authority, while holding onto the desk for support. When he finished, there was a standing ovation. At first, Tony was confused. Then he realized what was happening and as a mischievous grin came over his face, he began to take a bow. No bow was so deeply deserved or so fully earned. Scholars throughout the world will continue to recognize the debt they owe to him, today and tomorrow.

            The University of Windsor proudly recognized the significant contributions of Tony Blair by honouring him with the rank of University Professor in 2002 and, later, with a FAHSS Career Award. Tony, Professor Blair, contributed unceasingly to the University community throughout his career here. He was a paragon of dedication and commitment, compassion and thoughtfulness. He set standards that we all can feel proud to come close to achieving.