Scholar. Educator. Adventurer. Inspiration. Born May 16, 1950, in London; died Nov 29, 2016, in Victoria, of brain cancer; aged 66
Dr. Andrew Lawrence Rippin was one of the of the world's leading and most respected scholars. A much-loved and highly esteemed dean of the faculty of humanities at the University of Victoria, Andrew was most recently professor emeritus of Islamic history – and considered an academic "titan" by his peers. But to me, for 53 years, he was Andy, my oldest pal and co-adventurer.
Knowing he was on the planet only once, Andrew made his time count. Long, flowing hair and an impressive beard served notice that here was a man who was comfortable in his own skin.
Born in London, Andy emigrated in 1959 to Toronto with his parents Dennis and Margaret and older sister, Jill. He attended high school in Scarborough before attending the University of Toronto and then McGill University for doctoral studies. In 1980, Andy joined the faculty of the department of religious studies at the University of Calgary, becoming associate dean (student affairs) in 1994 until his move to Vancouver Island in 2000 to serve as dean of humanities at the University of Victoria.
Andy was passionate about the world outside. Whether he was mountain biking in the Rockies, telemark skiing through deep powder, skate skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre, backpacking in the back country, paddling his sea kayak on the Salish Sea or running trails and road races, Andy excelled. He had no need to stop to admire the view or smell the roses. He did that at his trademark high rate of speed. That, of course, accounted for some dramatic tumbles and missed corners, which led to mutually shared gales of laughter. His navigation skills in the back country became legendary, as did his propensity to have to make use of them. It was, after all, much more fun knowing where we were, especially if we'd just been hopelessly lost. "Finding his way" was something my pal did very well in life, very well indeed.
When we weren't sharing an outdoor adventure, we discussed weighty subjects, philosophical and theological. But we enjoyed, as much as anything, talking about classic VW vans, rock 'n' roll, skegs versus rudders in sea kayaks, the drive we shared to California in 1971 and how my Harris tweed jacket looked much better on him.
Andy had a kind and generous spirit, a courageous heart and a personal warmth that touched students, colleagues, friends and family. Andy, and his wife, Beth, enjoyed countless adventures together, sharing the exquisite beauty of the mountains and the sea and the natural world in hemispheres, north and south, east and west. He modelled to his children, Courtney, Casey and Lucas, a passion for the natural world, a hunger for knowledge and the richness that comes when we pursue opportunities for exploration and discovery. Andy's grace, humility and strength of character demonstrated deep respect and appreciation for each and every one of life's precious moments.
Selfless to the very end, his concern was always for others. Andy's life was cut short by cancer, but he was never intimidated, nor did he ever complain. His response was framed with dignity, courage and elegance.
Rev. Duncan Barwise is Andrew's friend.