Ian Kerr
In Memory of
Ian Randall
1965 - 2019
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Hulse, Playfair & McGarry
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Hulse, Playfair & McGarry
315 McLeod Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K2P 1A2

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Obituary for Ian Randall Kerr

“I am disembodied love. I am in the palace of the philosophers.”

Ian left us on August 27, 2019, at age 54, dreaming of his sweetheart Erin and his most beloved daughter Ruby.

Ian was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, where he learned yiddishkeit and the basic tenets of humanism with his two sisters and other young members of Calgary’s Jewish Community at the I.L. Peretz School. He subsequently attended Milton Williams Junior High, followed by Henry Wisewood Senior High School. Ian would never approve of this dull litany of his scholarly pursuits, so, in his own words:

“In the early-mid 1980s, Ian not only chose to have big hair, he came very close to making another big mistake. He almost became a dentist (not that there is anything wrong with that). Nearing the end of the 11th hour, he somehow realized that schlepping teeth was something his dad wanted for him, but not something he wanted for himself. In what must have felt like an epiphany to a twenty year old, he realized that every single elective he ever took during his science degree was in philosophy. Upon graduation, bathed in the uncertainty and existential angst typical of that stage of things, he made the bold (if not foolhardy) move of bailing on a career in the health sciences and enrolling instead in honours philosophy. His parents, while supportive, must have taken several deep breaths.

During Ian’s studies in philosophy, he fell in love with the law and was eventually sweet-talked into going to law school while completing his doctorate in philosophy and teaching 800 students.”

Fast forward a few years, and after teaching at the University of Western Ontario, Ian became a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and was appointed the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology. In his work, Ian was particularly interested in the ethical implications of technologies, with a focus on robotics, artificial intelligence, privacy, and surveillance. One of his proudest accomplishments was launching the first We Robot conference with three colleagues in 2012. The We Robot conference has since become the leading conference of its kind, resulting in ground-breaking scholarship and a generation of new scholars in the robotics law field. Ian had a four-way cross appointment to medicine, information studies, philosophy, and law. An extraordinary teacher, Ian had an uncanny knack for sensing potential in his students, and enabling them to flourish and become their best possible selves. Students regularly beat a path to his office door for some “Ian Kerr-agement”.

Ian and Erin fell in love shortly after meeting in 2001, and spent the next 18 years travelling, laughing, and loving each other and their incredible daughter Ruby, who arrived on the scene in 2010. Ian’s essence was kindness, love, humor, creativity, and scholarly excellence. He loved pizza, Nietzsche, Rush, 80s movies, red licorice nibs, and drumming. He was deeply loyal, and had no greater joy than his connections with each and every person of importance to him in his life.

Ian was the drummer with various bands through his life, including Sid Suntan and the Coppertones, initially formed by Ian and his friends in a (successful) attempt to win Battle of the Bands in Grade 12. During law school, Ian drummed for the band Jeremy Bentham’s Head, which Ian described as, “indisputably the driving rock-n-roll force in the history of The University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law”.

Memories of Ian will be cherished by Erin and Ruby, his many dear friends, colleagues and former students, his grief-stricken family: his mother, Eta Kerr; his sister Sheryl Kerr Loughlin and husband, Brian Loughlin, his mother- and father-in law, Dale and Bruce Smith, his nephews, Jamie and Spencer Loughlin, as well as his many cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Ian received excellent care from his medical team, including the exceptional nurses and other care staff on 6E of the Ottawa General Hospital, and all of the physicians who consulted with respect to Ian. In addition, Ian’s family gives special thanks to Ian’s hematologist Dr. Andrew Aw and Ian’s palliative care physician Dr. Camille Munro, both of whose thoughtfulness, benevolence and humanity helped Ian and his family through the very difficult final stages of Ian’s illness.

Friends are invited to a Memorial Service at the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair and McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, (at O’Connor) Ottawa, on Monday, September 2, 2019 at 12:30 p.m., with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, or Lymphoma Canada.

Ian was spectacular, luminous, brilliant, joyful; in short, an incredible person who made the most of the very short time he had on this earth.

See you in the palace of the philosophers Ian.