Helen's Bench: dedicated to a much loved member of the DSR community

December 1, 2021 by Siri Hansen & Pamela Klassen

Helen MoIn April of 2017 we lost a very dear member of our graduate community, Helen Mo.

To honour Helen and her work, an annual scholarship was established through the generosity of the many communities who loved her, and a bench has been dedicated to her memory in Philosopher’s Walk, one of her favourite places on the University of Toronto St George campus.

The holder of a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and an intellectual and community leader, Helen's doctoral dissertation, “Evangelicals in the Ethnoburbs: Chinese Christian Imaginaries and the Landscape of the Canadian Dream,” was highly anticipated. She had completed much of the fieldwork for her study of the significance of "spatial community” for Chinese-Canadian Christians living in Toronto, and the resulting dissertation would have transformed the narrative of religion and multiculturalism in Canada. A highly accomplished and eloquent writer, Helen’s keen intellect and gift for careful storytelling is on display in her published chapter, “A Christmas Crisis: Lessons from a Canadian Public School’s Seasonal Skirmish,” in The Public Work of Christmas: Difference and Belonging in Multicultural Societies

Helen was also a great teacher. While the public school system lost an exemplary teacher when Helen decided to return to graduate school, the university gained a scholar who deeply understood the significance of good teachers in the lives of young people. 

We all learned so much from Helen during her time in the DSR, faculty and students, alike, and are honoured to continue her legacy through the Helen Mo Memorial Scholarship. Founded in the spirit of the unflinching intellectual boldness, warmth, and integrity for which Helen was renowned, the Helen Mo Memorial Scholarship was first awarded in 2020 to PhD candidate Sara Abdel Latif. In 2021, there were two recipients: PhD candidates Kalpesh Bhatt and Eric Farr. (If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund, please follow this link.)

Helen loved Philosopher's Walk, and it was a favourite spot for study breaks. Helen's husband and parents, Terrence Liu and Sam and Jane Mo, together with Helen's friend and fellow PhD candidate Saliha Chattoo, worked with the University of Toronto to identify the best location for the bench to dedicate to Helen. The bench is in a quiet location: just right for taking a few moments, doing some reading, or having a relaxed conversation. Surrounded by beautiful trees, and overtop the buried Taddle Creek, Philosopher’s Walk has been recently re-storyed by plaques that tell its significance as a sacred site for the Anishinaabeg. Helen was a scholar dedicated to challenging stories of Canada that erase the histories and presence of Indigenous and racialized peoples; it seems right that her bench sits on this land. The U of T communities of which Helen was a member—the DSR, Massey College, Victoria College, and her students and peers—all generously donated to Helen's fund. That her bench is located in the forest in the centre of these places that loved her, and were loved by her, is a fitting tribute to our sorely missed friend and colleague.

→ Read a 2017 tribute to Helen here 

Helen Mo bench plaque
Philosopher's Walk: The bench on the left bears the plaque


Philosopher's Walk

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