A memorial service for Wilfred Cantwell Smith, professor of the comparative history of religion emeritus, will be held on Friday, May 5, at 2:30 p.m. in the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. Smith came to Harvard in 1964 from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University.
For nearly a decade, Smith served as director of Harvards Center for the Study of World Religions, guiding the work and vision of the Center through its important formative years. He left Harvard in 1973, moving home to his native Canada to establish a department of Comparative Religion at Dalhousie University in Halifax. In 1978, however, he accepted the invitation to return to the Harvard faculty and take up the leadership of the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, where he was also a member of the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
Smith earned his B.A. from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He was president of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society for the Study of Religion, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Humanities and Social Sciences section of the Royal Society of Canada. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In January of this year, Smith was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada, the highest distinction his native country confers. He died in his native Toronto on February 7. Smith is survived by his wife Muriel, five children, and 10 grandchildren.