Eva Milada Ruth Kushner was born 18 June, 1929 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, daughter of Josef Dubsky and Anna Kafkova Dubsky. Her family was separated during World War II, with Josef in the Czech squadrons of the Royal Air Force, and Anna sheltering Eva and her younger sister Sonia in Cognac, in occupied France. Dozens of Eva’s Dubsky and Kafka family members perished in the Holocaust, including her grandfather. The family was reunited after the war and moved to Montreal in 1946, as Josef was assigned to the newly formed International Civil Aviation Organization. She received her first degree from College Marie de France and graduated from McGill University in 1948. She earned an M.A. in Philosophy from McGill in 1950, and a Ph.D. in French Literature in 1956. In 1949, she married Donn J. Kushner, an American graduate student of biochemistry at McGill. Donn died in 2001. They have three children, Daniel (Carol) of Toronto, Roland (Barbara) of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Paul (Catherine Cassidy) of Toronto, and six grandchildren: Nathan Kushner (Lacroix Scott), Benjamin Kushner, Noah Cassidy, Wesley Cassidy, Gabriel Cassidy, and Ian Cassidy. In 2005, Eva married the Rev. Canon Robert Bruce Mutch, who died in 2013.
She passed away peacefully in her home in Toronto on 28 January, 2023, and is survived by her children, grandchildren, sister Sonia Brody of Los Angeles, CA, and nieces and nephews Lesley Kushner, Tony Kushner, Eric Kushner, Allan Brody, Jeffrey Brody, and Joanna Brody and their families. She will also be missed by her adopted family in France, the Georges and Paul Zaruba families, who have maintained contact faithfully over the years.
Eva launched her 60-year teaching career at Sir George Williams College in Montreal (now Concordia University). Eva joined the faculty of Carleton University in 1961 where she rose to be Professor of French and Comparative Literature. She returned to McGill as chair of the French Department (1976-1987). Subsequently, as President of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, she was the first woman to lead an Ontario university (1987-1994). Her legacy at Vic includes establishment of the Northrop Frye Centre; at the time of her passing, she was President emerita and Mary Jackman Rowell Professor of French, Comparative Literature, and Renaissance Studies. Her teaching career is distinguished by the many students she mentored into scholarly and leadership careers of their own.
Eva’s research spanned a wide range of areas. She was prolific, publishing biographies and critical analyses of both 20th century French and Quebecois authors, and Renaissance writers and poets. Over her career, she authored seven books, and hundreds of lectures, articles, book chapters, and conference presentations; her last scholarly work was published in 2022. She had visiting positions at Princeton University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Athens, Greece. She was, at different times, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and of the Canada Council for the Arts. She was active in global scholarship, rising to be president of the International Comparative Literature Association, serving on the executive committee of the Modern Languages Association, and participating actively in many global scholarly societies in the humanities.
Eva was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997, and received honourary doctorates from the University of Western Ontario (1997), Acadia University (1988), United Theological College of McGill University (1992), University of St. Michael’s College (1993), University of Szeged in Hungary, and Victoria University (2006). She was especially proud of being named an Officer of “La Pléiade Ordre de la Francophonie”.
Despite her magnificent professional accomplishments, Eva derived her greatest satisfaction from being a wife, mother, sister, grandmother, and aunt. The family gratefully acknowledges the loving care and support provided by “Team Eva” since 2015: Mila, Emiley, Maria, Elaine, and Darl.
Eva’s family will receive visitors from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles – Newbigging Chapel, 1403 Bayview Avenue, Toronto on Saturday, February 4, followed by a funeral service at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Doctors without Borders, a favorite charity of Eva’s.
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