In Memoriam: Kenneth Bambrick

Western Journalism and the Faculty of Information & Media Studies lost one of their historical pillars recently when retired journalism Professor Emeritus Ken Bambrick passed away at his home in London, Ontario, on February 17, 2020, at the age of 90.

Ken and Mary Bambrick at his retirement partyProfessor Bambrick started teaching in the Department of Journalism in 1970 and was already a popular professor among the undergraduate students when the university decided to transform journalism education from a bachelor of arts into a master’s-level degree. He was among the founding faculty members of the Graduate School of Journalism, which launched in 1974. Bambrick, who was himself an alumnus of Western’s BA in Journalism Class of 1951, taught broadcast writing to graduate students enrolled in radio and television courses. He supervised the radio ‘immersion’ course in the summer term which included having a CFPL news anchor read a student-written newscast live on the air from the studio in Middlesex College.

His career at Western saw him cross paths and collaborate with many of his peers in the journalism industry, including Andrew MacFarlane, founding Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, Hugh Bremner, local radio and television news anchor, Peter Desbarats, later Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, and Gord Harris, local news director. He also worked closely for many years with Dave Mills and Wendie Crouch (both now retired), who countless students remember as their media production mentors.

Wendie Crouch recalls a generous man who always wanted to be in the middle of everything.

“When I applied for the technical staff job at Western in 1975 Ken and Dave Mills did the interview, so I am grateful to him for saying yes to me! He was a dedicated teacher, and not only handled the academic side of the student work, but he also loved to pitch in and help crew TV newscasts and be part of the team,” she says.

Though he worked with many organizations and accomplished many things, Bambrick, who penned his own obituary, pointed to his role as a teacher as his most meaningful.

“I enjoyed my work and colleagues in the news field at the Toronto Telegram, The London Free Press and CBC-TV. But even more I enjoyed my UWO teaching years and the students who passed through, never failing to teach me more than I taught them,” he wrote.

His other notable achievements included producing a series of radio programs about the history of Canadian radio in the 1920s and 1930s. He took a sabbatical in 1976 to work on the series, which explored major aspects of the development of the radio industry in Canada. Copies of the five programs are stored in the National Archives of Canada, labelled as the Kenneth Bambrick Collection.

Bambrick retired from Western in 1990, but not before his final assignment took him to Kenya with journalism colleagues to teach journalism students at the University of Nairobi. He concluded his teaching career a few years before the journalism school merged with the Graduate School of Library and Information since in 1996-97 to form the new Faculty of Information & Media Studies. Though he never taught under the FIMS banner, Bambrick’s legacy lives on in the faculty through the many talented journalism alumni he taught and the enduring tradition of instilling strong storytelling skills in journalism students that continues today.

In retirement, Bambrick was known for his dedicated volunteer work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Meals on Wheels, and for his passion for sailing in the Bayfield area. He loved spending time with his wife, Mary, and the couple’s four children and their families.

Bambrick will be sorely missed by the many who encountered him over his lifetime, though the memories he’s left behind will always be valued by those who hold them.

“He and I stayed good friends after his retirement,” says Crouch. “I looked forward to our regular lunches at different restaurants around London, when he would always mention a byline he'd seen by a grad, or a particularly good story he'd seen on TV or heard on radio by a former student. He was a good friend, a good man, and I’ll miss him.”