Jeanne Wolfe was known and loved for her tireless promotion of urban planning in Quebec, in Canada and the world over, for her commitment to human well-being in public policy and education, and for her generosity and her wit. Wolfe received a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Bedford College, University of London, UK (1953-1956), a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario (1956-1959) and a Master’s degree in Geography (Urban Planning) from McGill University in Montreal (1959-1961). Following her graduation from McGill, Wolfe practiced for over a decade as a professional planner, holding positions with both the City of Montreal and the Quebec Government’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs. In 1973, Wolfe joined the faculty of the McGill School of Urban Planning. While at McGill, she developed courses in the history, theory and practice of urban planning, taught numerous planning studio courses in collaboration with public and community partners, supervised graduate and undergraduate research, and served as mentor to numerous students and young colleagues. Wolfe was director of the McGill School of Urban Planning between 1988 and 1999. She was made Professor Emeritus in 2000.
Wolfe was an accomplished researcher and a prolific writer. Among her achievements are classic reviews of Canadian planning history, planning practice and housing policy, and articles documenting the evolution of Montreal’s governance structure. She did extensive research on urban and social issues in developing countries and more recently worked on a history of utopian communities across Canada.
In addition to teaching and conducting research, Wolfe remained active in municipal affairs. She participated in many organizations and commissions, both locally and nationally. For example, in addition to being a commissioner for both the 1986 Parizeau Commission on the Future of Municipalities and the 1987 commission for the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, she participated in the cooperative housing and environmental preservation movements and intervened in public debates.
For the last 25 years, Wolfe was deeply involved in planning research and practice in developing countries, particularly in the Caribbean basin and in Central America. She initiated and directed major international projects in Belize and in Trinidad & Tobago. She was a founding member of the Groupe interuniversitaire de Montréal, a Centre of Excellence of the Canadian International Development Agency. The group helped to establish post-secondary urban planning programs in local universities and to develop their research capacity. In recent years, she worked in China and in India, doing research and providing advice on local planning and governance structures, for instance with respect to solid waste management (in India) and metropolitan governance (in China).
Wolfe’s outstanding work earned her the Prix Jean-Claude La Haye of the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec (2004) and the President’s Award of the Canadian Institute of Planners (2007). She was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada in May 2009 for “her contributions as a leading scholar and mentor in the field of urban planning in Canada and abroad.