On December 2, 2023, former Varsity editor Elinor Jane Loucks passed away in her sleep at her home in Madison, Wisconsin. 

A former Varsity editor, Elinor actively volunteered in her community, wrote and edited prolifically, and served as a mother, grandmother, spouse, and friend.

Her era at The Varsity

Born Elinor Bernstein on February 26, 1932, in Belleville, Ontario, Elinor enrolled at U of T in 1949 to study English. She quickly became involved with The Varsity, starting out as an office assistant in 1950, progressing to design assistant in 1951, design editor in 1952, and managing editor for the 1953–1954 school year. 

During Elinor’s time at The Varsity, the paper — at this point printed daily — featured extraordinary life and energy, along with regular hijinks. For one example, in March 1952, a joke issue reprinted a speech by then-U of T President Sidney Smith announcing the introduction of a universal, compulsory Remedial English course — although The Varsity replaced every instance of the word “English” with a more suggestive term. 

The gag provoked much laughter and merriment around campus at-large, according to the newspaper’s lead editor at the time, but stirred outrage in certain grim-faced student leaders. The Students Administrative Council — the precursor to today’s University of Toronto Students’ Union and, at that time, The Varsity’s funder — struck out to snatch all copies out of the paper off of stands and suspended the paper entirely for two weeks. The entire masthead — Elinor among them — resigned in protest of this transgression against freedom of the press.

Elinor graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1953 and continued on to a graduate degree in English.

Orie Loucks — a forestry major and wrestler who a Varsity sports report once gave the perplexing nickname “the Osculator”— worked with Elinor on The Varsity throughout this time. In the 1953–1954 school year — when Elinor was in graduate school — they held two of the top three positions at the paper, with Elinor serving as managing editor and Orie serving as one of the two ‘associate editors’ heading the paper. 

A lifelong friend

The two married in 1955. Elinor went on to fruitfully apply the skills that she had cultivated at The Varsity throughout the rest of her life. She worked jobs preparing manuscripts and as a departmental secretary, and she volunteered as an editor of the Prairie Society Newsletter and as chief administrator of the Miami University Institute for Learning in Retirement. She co-authored a book on her family’s history and “regularly copy-edited the written work of everyone in the household,” according to an obituary of her published by Cress Funeral and Cremation Service. 

Elinor managed her husband’s global career as he became a professor of ecology at the University of Wisconsin and later at Miami University, and as an environmental activist. Her obituary, “Orie Loucks’ remarkable curriculum vitae would not have been possible without the household management Elinor provided.”

It also notes her love for reading, flowers, mysteries, and puzzles, and highlighted the friendships she maintained throughout her life with people she met in high school, U of T, and in the many cities where she lived.

Orie died in September 2016. Elinor is survived by her children and their spouses — Eric and Mary Loucks; Kimberly and Michael Coplien; and Ted Loucks and Tina Robbins — and her three grandchildren Emily Loucks, William Loucks, and Lucy Robbins. 

The Varsity of today expresses its deep sorrow at her passing, and immense pride at its ability to call a woman of such impressive character a part of its history.