Memorable Manitobans: John Everett Robbins (1903-1995)
Born at Hampton, Ontario on 9 October 1903, he came with his family to Manitoba during the winter of 1906, settling at Darlingford. He attended Darlington School and Darlingford School. In the fall of 1912, they returned to Ontario due to his father’s poor health, and the man died that winter. When his widowed mother married Manitoba farmer William Carruthers White in October 1914, they returned to White’s Manitoba farm and he attended Calf Mountain School (1914-1916) and Darlingford School (1916-1918).
From 1918 to 1920, he worked on the farm during summers and the T. Eaton Company store at Winnipeg during winters. He completed grade 11 at Manitou School (1920) then completed a short course at the Manitou Normal School before teaching at a school at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan (1922). He completed grade 12 at Melita Collegiate (1923) then taught school at Punnichy, Saskatchewan (1923-1925). He then attended the University of Manitoba, receiving BA (1928) and MA (1929) degrees.
He worked for the Dominion Bureau of Statistics from 1930 to 1952, serving as Director of its Education Division from 1936. In 1943, he helped to found the Canadian Youth Commission. In 1929 he published A Study of the Revenue System of the Dominion of Canada. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia Canadiana from 1952 to 1960, and then served as President of Brandon University from 1960 until 1969. In the 1960s, he served on the Historical Committee of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation. In 1969, he was appointed the first Canadian Ambassador to the Vatican, a post he held until 1973.
From the late 1930s, he was involved in the founding of at least a dozen Canadian cultural organizations. He was an officer of the Canadian Social Science Research Council (1940-1961), Humanities Research Council (1943-1961), and Canada Foundation (1950-1961). He served as President of the Brandon Indian-Metis Friendship Centre (1965-1966), and a Director of the Manitoba Record Society (1961-1969), Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (1966-1969), Manitoba Institute of Management (1966-1969), Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company (1961), and Brandon Sun Publishing Company (1966). He received honorary doctorates from the University of New Brunswick (1959), Laval University (1967), University of Manitoba (1967), and Carlton University (1969).
He retired to Regina, Saskatchewan where he died on 7 March 1995. He is commemorated by the John E. Robbins Library at Brandon University.
Ontario birth registration, Ancestry.
“A tribute to Dr. J. E. Robbins” by Fred McGuinness, Brandon Sun, 23 March 1995, page 31.
The Darlingford Saga II, 1870-1970, 1970-1999 by the Darlingford Centennial Book Committee, 1999.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Janet Kirkconnell for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 5 August 2021