Memorable Manitobans: Ruben C. Bellan (1918-2005)
Educator, economist, historian.
Born at Winnipeg on 2 October 1918, son of Lily and Chaim Borach Bellan, he attended St. John’s High School. He obtained his BA at the University of Manitoba, his MA at the University of Toronto under the mentorship of Professor Harold Innis and his PhD at the University of Columbia in New York. He served in the Royal Canadian Air force during the Second World War stationed in Burma as an intelligence officer. He was appointed to the faculty of the University of Manitoba in the Department of Economics immediately after the war. He had a long and distinguished career at the University highlighted by his term as Dean of Studies at St. John’s College. Ultimately he was honoured by the University when he was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement.
Ruben had an active life in the community outside of the University. He served the City of Winnipeg as a Police Commissioner in the 1960s. He was a frequent guest on radio and television and was often asked to provide expert commentary on economic issues for the Toronto Star. He was known for his clear and insightful explanations and was sought after as a speaker and raconteur. He was a seminal thinker and this led to his publication of six successful books, Principles of Economics and the Canadian Economy (seven editions, starting in 1960), The Evolving City, Winnipeg First Century, The Unnecessary Evil and Canada’s Cities.
On 1 June 1947, he married Ruth Lercher (1921-2019) at Winnipeg and they had three children. He was a man of many interests. He founded the University curling league (even if he could not hit the broom!) and was an avid bridge player. He was a founding member of a discussion club that met monthly for decades drawing together people from all walks of life to debate the issues of the day. An enthusiastic backyard gardener, he once tried to put farm economics to the test and grow tomatoes commercially in St. Norbert, after a few years working an acreage with one helper he finally convinced himself that he should leave farming to the farmers! He was devoted to his family. Many hours were spent around the dinner table discussing current events. He travelled widely. He was very charitable. When the Vietnam Boat People crisis erupted in the 1970s, groups were asked to combine to share the cost of sponsoring a family to come to Canada, he pretended to form a group so that he could single-handedly bring a family of five to a new life in Winnipeg.
He died at Winnipeg on 17 April 2005.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
Obituary [Ruth Bellan], Winnipeg Free Press, 28 September 2019.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 28 September 2019