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RENNIE, Dr. James Clarence, BSc Agr, MSc, PhD.


JC Rennie

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Clare Rennie, in Guelph, Ontario, on the morning of June 23, 2016. Clare was the loved husband of Shirley. Together for 64 years, they supported and guided their children Don and Cindy, their grandchildren Claire, John and David, Jaimie and Julia, and more lately their two great grandchildren Nuada and Fionn. His daughter in law Frances and son in law Jim were very special to Clare, not only because they were graduates of the Ontario Agricultural College but because they shared his passion for farming and his appreciation of the natural world.

Born on a farm in 1926 in Blackwater, Ontario County, Clare left at the age of 16 to study at the Ontario Agricultural College. After graduation in 1947, he and Shirley journeyed to the United States, where Clare earned an MSc and PhD from Iowa State University. With this foundation, Clare devoted the next four decades of his life to Ontario agriculture. For 22 years, he taught at the University of Guelph and inspired countless students and graduate students, many of whom went on to influential positions in academia, industry, government or - and of most importance to Clare - returned to the family farm, motivated and inspired with new ideas.

He authored over 75 academic publications which were translated into five different languages. He lectured and spoke in dozens of countries, and on five continents, and pioneered the use of the computer to improve the quality of Ontario dairy herds. As Chair, he led the modernization of the new Department of Animal Science from its conception to construction of the new building, thus ensuring the University’s leadership on a global level. Clare left the University in 1974 to become the Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

For the next 17 years, he shaped and guided the face of agricultural education and research in Ontario and, with his work on the Canadian Agricultural Research Council, he set agriculture research priorities on a national level. His belief in the importance of science and research is visible today in the research farms at Vineland and Elora, to name but two, and the system of agricultural colleges in Ontario. But over those years, his heart remained with the University and OAC, the ‘College on the hill’. He seldom missed Convocation, and his advice was frequently sought by successive Presidents on matters of strategic direction and importance to the University. Clare was profoundly committed to his alma mater and proudly sat on the stage at many Convocations.

At this stage in life, many would slow down. Clare did not. Somewhat to Shirley’s dismay, he sped up. For the next 12 years he lead the Semex Alliance/CIDA project in China, focusing on the improvement of dairy herd management and milk production in China. In all, he made 34 trips to China and travelled far and wide on a schedule and diet that would be too much for many much younger than him. His work for the Chinese people was recognized in 2006 when he was awarded China’s highest honour by the Premier - the “Friendship Award”.

This was not the only honour Clare received. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Guelph and awarded a Doctor of Law from Dalhousie University, the Queen’s Jubilee Silver Medal, and the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario’s Award for Seniors Achievement. In 1991, he was inducted into the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame. ‘Retirement’ was a foreign word to Clare. Before long he was Chair of the Board for the Elliott Community and President of the Rotary Club of Guelph.

Through his Rotary work, Clare’s attachment to the land continued and although in his 80’s, he had a vision to improve the quality of water in Guelph Lake and to increase the amount of forest in Guelph. So was born the Rotary Forest, a 20 year volunteer based project to reforest 100 acres of farmland. Clare was truly passionate about this – organizing, coordinating, encouraging and indeed, on tree planting day, planting the trees. The fact that he would never live to enjoy the forest fully grown did not deter for a moment his commitment to ensuring that generations to come could. For his work, he received Rotary International’s highest honour, the Service Above Self Award.

Clare was not all work. He relaxed at the cottage and was most content chatting with his children and grandchildren, encouraging them in their studies, inquiring into their plans, asking about their ideas. He and Don spent many hours together working on projects around the cottage, and with Cindy discussing the importance of community service, life on the farm and sharing their love of travel.

He was a wonderful grandfather – letting the under-age boys drive to the cottage dump, helping with rigging the sailboat and teaching the basics of home maintenance and landscaping. He was infinitely patient with his grandchildren. Their noise and laughter made him happy.

Clare had boundless energy and optimism. Intellectually curious, he always saw the possibilities in new ideas and changes. Importantly, Clare saw the good in all people and treated all with respect. He was equally comfortable walking through a barn looking at cattle as he was in a boardroom, lecture hall or Minister’s office. He was warm, engaging and supportive of all. The farm, the University and then the forest were his community.

Friends will be received at the Gilbert MacIntyre and Son Funeral Home, Hart Chapel, 1099 Gordon St., Guelph on Sunday, June 26, 2016 from 2–4 pm. Funeral service will be at the Hart Chapel on Monday, June 27, 2016 at 1 pm, with a reception to follow. Memorial contributions may be made to the Guelph Rotary Club – Rotary Forest Fund would be appreciated. Cards are available at the funeral home, 519-821-5077 and condolences can be made at

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