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This article was published 3/3/2016 (1426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Longtime Brandon University professor and tireless peace researcher M.V. Naidu passed away on Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was in his late 80s.
"He didn’t enjoy aging, so it was really important to him that nobody knew his age," Naidu’s daughter Paromita explained over the phone from her home in Vancouver. "He was a vital force. His body slowed down, but his mind just kept churning out articles and research and speeches and lectures."
Born in Hyderabad, India, Naidu graduated university at the age of 16 and was teaching his post-secondary peers by the time he turned 17.
He moved to the United States as a Fulbright scholar in his 20s and taught at the University of Minnesota before taking a position in 1965 in the political science department of what was then Brandon College.
During the college’s transition into a university, Naidu was charged with instituting a new curriculum and bringing specialists into the political science department.
"He modernized the curriculum ... and actually most of the courses we have now on our calendar are courses that he instituted," said Meir Serfaty, a BU professor and longtime colleague of Naidu’s.
Serfaty says he was impressed with Naidu’s ability to impart to students and his advocacy for social justice and racial equality in the larger community of Brandon.
"In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he was a force to contend with in the community," Serfaty said.
Paromita shares a similar view of her father, adding that he created a south Asian cultural association immediately after moving to the Wheat City.
"He fought oppression, he fought racism ... because he was one of the pioneers here — and people don’t picture pioneers being a jovial gentleman in a black turtle neck with a pipe," she said.
During BU’s early years, the political science department was a motley crew made up of Serfaty, Naidu, a specialist in Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent methods, and Errol Black, a local leftist activist.
"Students that came through there got a good exposure ... All three of them contributed to political science in a different way," former BU president Louis Visentin said. "Much to his credit, Naidu stuck to his commitment in peace research like many other faculty do not in the Canadian university system."
Visentin remembers Naidu as a dedicated and eccentric colleague, recalling a time when the professor came into his office and tried to get the university to take on his substantial book collection.
"He could just never convince the librarian to do it ... (but) I respected him for trying," Visentin said with a laugh.
Naidu was not only a collector of books, but an author in his own right. According to his daughter, he penned 10 books, 100 academic articles and 250 newspaper articles — he was a regular political columnist with The Brandon Sun during his 40 years in the city.
In 1984, Naidu took on the role of editor and publisher for Peace Research and turned the newsletter into a respected peer-reviewed journal.
When Naidu and his wife, Premalatha, moved to Winnipeg in 2006 to be closer to a cancer treatment centre, the researcher relinquished his duties with the journal to Menno Simmons College.
John Derksen is the current editor of Peace Research.
"(Naidu) remained curious about the world right to the very end ... he kept wanting to publish articles and he would contact us (often)," Derksen said.
The Menno Simmons conflict resolution studies professor fondly remembers visiting Naidu at home on occasion.
"He would try and get me to stay for two and three hours just to chat — he was a great storyteller," Derksen said, adding his amazement of Naidu’s grasp of global affairs. "He had a large view of the world and he knew what was going on in a lot of countries at the same time."
Closer to home, Naidu created and hosted a television show in the 1960s on Brandon’s CKX-TV station, called "Professor’s Parlour," in which he talked about civic and political issues in Manitoba.
"It ran for two years ... That’s a really long time for a strange show to run all over Manitoba," Paromita said.
Paromita grew up in Brandon and moved away when she was 10 years old after Naidu and her mother split up. She remembers her father as a fiercely intelligent man with a witty, dry sense of humour.
"I remember wanting a treasure hunt for my eighth birthday and he made these Egyptian hieroglyphics that nobody could figure out and he thought it was the greatest thing," Paromita said. "He was kind of above us in a lot of ways — kind of Stephen Hawking-ish."
A funeral service for Naidu will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Thompson in the Park in Winnipeg.
In lieu of flowers, donations for the M.V. Naidu Award can be made by cheques payable to the Brandon University Foundation, 270 18th Street, Brandon MB, R7A 6A9, or by credit card online at brandonu.ca/give/donate or by phoning 204-727-7374.
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