It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Helen Mo, Junior Fellow at Victoria College and PhD candidate in the Department for the Study of Religion. Helen died in her sleep during the early morning hours of April 11, 2017. Her death was unexpected, but peaceful and painless. A brilliant scholar and public intellectual at the heart of several communities across campus, Helen was 33 years old.
Helen had a promising career ahead of her as a scholar of religion in the public sphere in multicultural North America. She held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and was a Junior Fellow and House Captain at Massey College. Helen was a regular at Vic’s High Table, enlivening the conversation with stories of her dissertation fieldwork. Entitled “Evangelicals in the Ethnoburbs: Chinese Christian Imaginaries and the Landscape of the Canadian Dream,” Helen’s dissertation project was supervised by Pamela Klassen, Fellow of Victoria College, together with her Department for the Study of Religion colleague Simon Coleman, and Ju Hui Judy Han of the Department of Geography & Planning.
Helen graduated from Queen’s University with an MA in History in 2008 and a concurrent BA/BEd in 2007. Before commencing her PhD in 2013, she taught English at Kennedy Collegiate Institute in Windsor, where she sponsored the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance, organized the annual Multiculturalism Assembly, and oversaw the school newspaper. Questions of the challenges and promises of religion, multiculturalism, and justice were at the center of Helen’s scholarship. She worked closely with Pamela Klassen on an international collaborative research project funded by Germany’s Humboldt Foundation, entitled “Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies.” A founder and editorial board member of several online publications, including The Ethnic Aisle, The Elements Experiment, and The Sunday Morning Salon, Helen conveyed her eloquence and insights to broad public audiences.
Helen was a beloved member of the Department for the Study of Religion, and renowned for her warmth, integrity, and unflinching intellectual boldness. An excellent and dedicated teacher, Helen had high expectations and compassion for the undergraduate students she worked with as a teaching assistant. A published poet and a Big Sister, Helen’s energy for positively engaging the world with her words and her actions was legendary.
Helen’s memory is cherished by her husband, Terrence Liu, her parents, Jane and Sam Mo, her sister Allison, her brother Anthony, and Terrence’s family, Pius Liu, Wendy Wu, and Garry Liu.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations can be given towards the dedication of a tree or bench in Helen’s name, as well as a scholarship created in Helen’s honour at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto.
Written by Professor Pamela Klassen
Orignally published in Victoria College’s The Albert Memo, XXXV.30