Harry Zarins

It is with great sadness that we post this obituary of Mr. Harry Zarins, executive director of Brain Injury Canada. He served the organisation with great dedication and commitment. Brain Injury Canada will be honouring Mr Zarins and his contributions, at upcoming conferences and with future communications.

OTTAWA — McGill Athletics & Recreation is sad to announce the passing of Harry Zarins, a former athlete, coach and administrator at McGill University. He was 65.

A native of Montreal, he died in Ottawa on Dec. 26 of complications from lymphoma after a year-long battle with liver cancer. He had served the past eight years as executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Canada and was the chief executive officer of Water Polo Canada from 2005 to 2008.

Zarins was a university sports administrator for 26 years, with stints at McGill (1976 to 1991), Victoria (1991 to 1993) and Concordia, where he served as director of athletics from 1993 to 2002. After leaving the university scene, he was president of Harry Zarins Enterprises, a business management consultancy company, from 2002 to 2008.

“A great loss to us all,” said Pat Sheahan, head football coach at Queen’s University who worked alongside Zarins during former coaching stints at McGill and Concordia. “A real (Canadian university sports ) visionary who was in many ways ahead of his time. Some great years at McGill and to date the most successful decade in Concordia University athletics history.”

Born Harry Joseph Zarins on Jan. 2, 1951 to immigrant parents, he graduated from Thomas D’Arcy McGee high school, then went on to play varsity water polo during his undergraduate years at McGill, before earning an arts degree in geography in 1974. A University Scholar, he was a member of the student senate, elected president of the Education Undergraduate Society and received a Scarlet Key award for leadership.

He also earned a diploma in institutional administration from Concordia in 1978 before returning to his alma mater to complete a master’s degree in educational administration in 1979.

Zarins had a lengthy career in administration, serving as sports information director at McGill, along with stints as a swim coach and aquatics instructor. He oversaw the McGill athletic department’s intercollegiate programs for 15 years, from 1976 to 1991, including the 1987 season when the Redmen won their only national championship. An avid football fan, he became a certified referee at the amateur level.

“An incredibly nice man who always had a positive, kind word to share,” said Chuck Petitpas, who kicked a winning 46-yard field-goal with no time remaining in the 1987 Atlantic Bowl, a 30-29 victory over Saint Mary’s, which sent the Redmen to the Vanier Cup game. “He will be missed.

Zarins was part of the Canada delegation at the FISU world university games on four occasions, serving as chef de mission at the respective 1993 and 1999 Games in Buffalo, N.Y., and Propad, Slovakia. He was an assistant chef de mission at the 1989 and 1997 Games in Duisburg, Germany and Sicily, Italy, respectively.

A longtime member of the College Sports Information Directors of America, Zarins was one of the founding members of the Association of Canadian University Sports Information Directors. He also served as honorary chair of the 2002 Montreal Shrine Bowl football game and chaired the McGill Homecoming committee in 2003.

In his final month, Zarins discovered a passion for painting. He is survived by his wife Jane, son Nicholas and daughter Alexa. Visitation is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 30 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Beechwood, Funeral, Cemetery and Cremation Services in Ottawa with the funeral service on Saturday, Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. 280 Beechwood Ave, Ottawa, Ont. K1M 8E2.(613-741-9530).

In his memory, please consider a donation to May Court Hospice in Ottawa or Brain Injury Canada. Messages of condolences can be left online here and/or on his Facebook page or through The Gazette obituaries Guestbook.