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Born: Apr 13, 1941

Date of Passing: Sep 08, 2019

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Professor Emeritus - University of Manitoba
In Loving Memory
Sunrise - April 13, 1941
Sunset - September 8, 2019

Deo grew up in a loving family and village community environment. He attended the Elementary and Secondary Canadian Mission Schools (Presbyterian Church) prior to admittance at the UWI (University of the West Indies). After a brief stint teaching at his Alma Mata - Iere High School, he attended the University of Manitoba in 1965 on a Canadian Government Scholarship. With his B.A. / B.Ed. in hand, he taught at Collegiates in Virden and Winnipeg making many new friends along the way. On completion of his M.Ed. at the University of Manitoba, he furthered his graduate education at the University of Toronto (OISE).
Brandon University came calling and Deo became a Professor in the Indigenous Access Program. He was elevated to Administration at BU. Deo took leave from BU to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in 1978 and returned to BU. In 1979, he moved to the U of M as Director of the Access Program and Special Pre-Medical Program for First Nations students. These programs achieved National Awards for their contribution to the development of First Nations education.
Deo's approach to exemplary scholarship, his work ethic, tenacity and ability to cooperate with other stakeholders resulted in the establishment of a Ph.D. program for Aboriginal scholars at U of M in 2007. Deo taught in the area of Teacher Training and lately in Adult Education. He also served as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Continuing Education at U of M. He was a disciplined effective teacher, professor and administrator.
Deo reviewed and published numerous articles and books and served on many National and International Organizations He was an evaluator of a major Secondary Education Management Program (SEMP) in Trinidad and Tobago. He served as Assistant Director of the OCOD - CIDA Program in the Caribbean and Guyana. He was President of the Canadian International Education Society (CIESC) and was a Board Member of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE). He was also a member of the Executive Board of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO from 1994 to 1999. For his service to the Community, the Nation and wider world, Deo was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Deo was not only an academic scholar - par excellence - he was a humanist helping many needy causes, personally and financially. He was deeply involved with his extended family, siblings in Trinidad and England as well as friends including his unofficial adopted family here in Manitoba. He loved his only son, Alex, very dearly. We will miss his humour, presence and enlightenment but not forget his footprints on the sands of time.

Dr. K.P. Binda
Dear Friend and Confidant

Condolences may be sent to

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Sep 19, 2019

Condolences & Memories (12 entries)

  • Dr. Deo Poonwassie was an exceptional scholar and a wonderful person. Deo mentored many teachers and future professors in Canada, and internationally. His warmth, brilliance, wit, and generosity shone through. As an educator, Deo challenged his students to be creative and critical thinkers. He was inspirational and visionary. Deo helped me in my career to become a professor and we collaborated on several writing projects. He was always kind and supportive. While I lost touch with Deo in recent years, I shall never forget him. My heartfelt sympathies go to Deo's family. Dr. Karen M. Magro Professor of Education The University of Winnipeg - Posted by: Karen M. Magro (Colleague) on: Apr 28, 2020

  • I am very saddened to hear of Dr Poonwassie's death. I extend my sincere condolence to Deo's immediate family in Canada and his extended family in Trinidad and oversesas. I met Deo when he did a consultancy in education in Trinidad and Tobago, under the Government of Trinidad and Tobago IDB Secondary Education Modernisation Programme. I will always remember his brilliance and humour. - Posted by: Cherrie Ann Joseph (Colleague ) on: Jan 02, 2020

  • I met Deo in 1979 when he was appointed Director of the Access Program and Head of the SPSP (Special Premedical Studies Program) an initiative to recruit and prepare Indigenous students to enter the health professions. At our first meeting he recognized my last name since my brother Ralph Paragg had been a classmate of his at Iere High School. At that time I was the Registrar of the Faculty of Medicine with one of my responsibilities to administer the Faculty's Admissions process. During the course of our interactions we developed a very good working relationship and friendship since he and I shared many opinions including that the prejudices faced by Indigenous students had become institutionalized and hence it was going to be a monumental task in developing programs and changing minds. Deo championed the case for more Indigenous students in the health services with those in authority and was never afraid of challenging the prejudices or the unconscious biases of those who interacted regularly with these students. His office developed special academic programs as well as lobbying for financial aid, housing, mental health programs, tutor and peer assistance, counseling, information sharing and exposing students to the different careers in health. The SPSP program was recognized nationally and by 2000 the University of Manitoba was a leader in graduating Indigenous students in Medicine in Canada. Deo championed many causes and his wings did spread far and wide always teaching, always encouraging in his unique and humble manner. He and I continued to meet after retirement mostly to share humorous and comedic stories with our friend Chanka. My condolences to his family especially Alex who was a good friend of my godson Matthew whose father Conrad Sigurdson worked for many years with Deo developing and evaluating educational programs in Northern Manitoba. Rest for now, Deo. Horace speaks for all of us "Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori". - Posted by: Charles Paragg (Colleague and Friend) on: Sep 30, 2019

  • I am writing on behalf of the St. John’s-Ravenscourt School community to offer our deepest sympathies to Deo’s son, family and friends, and everyone who worked with him throughout the years. Deo was a valued past-member of our Board of Governors who served the School with loyalty and humility. We remember him fondly. - Posted by: Jim Keefe (Head of School, SJR) on: Sep 24, 2019

  • I met Deo in 1982 when I was a student in the Special Pre Med Program at U of M. He was always supportive, kind and listened to student concerns. He made a long and successful career and community life dedicated to ensuring people had access to education. Rest in Power Dr. Poonwassie. - Posted by: Alex Wilson (former student) on: Sep 24, 2019

  • Condolences to Deo’s son Alex and the rest of the family. “Mr Poonwassie” was my homeroom teacher at Iere High School. Several years later we bumped into each other in the Education Building at U of M. He saw me first, came up to me from behind and called me by my first and last name. I knew his voice right away, turned around and said “ Hi Mr Poonwassie”. In true fashion in his “ teacher” voice, I was quickly corrected with, “it’s Deo now.” Of course it was a memorable and joyful meeting. We exchanged the usual updated information and became “friends “since then. In fact we saw each other very often as our paths connected in many circles such as social, Alumni, community, education, reunions, dinners, lunches, birth of children, visits at home and to visit old friends in Brandon. Deo was a true friend who never forgot his humble roots, he aspired high and was always willing to help others to do the same. Sadly, he succumbed to ill health, and I visited him over the last few years both at his home and other care institutions. I was honoured to receive the last book he wrote when we took him on a road trip to Brandon in 2017.( We we’re visiting Winnipeg from B.C.) My last visit with him was June 2019. I am truly thankful that he helped to shape my career path. I know that many others benefitted from his teaching, his friendship and fine efforts to promote innovative opportunities to communities both in Canada and abroad. - Posted by: Lystra Kauldher (Student/friend) on: Sep 23, 2019

  • I am very sad to hear of this news. I was just thinking about him the other day when I got the notice from the University of Manitoba about his passing. Deo was a fantastic human being, who saw potential in everyone he met. He encouraged many of us students in the PSAS Program to push beyond the scholarly boundaries that had been imposed on us on as Indigenous peoples. He always called students to see how they were doing. He believed in maintaining relationships however he could. I will miss having those regular telephone calls with him. I know he is smiling down on us and spiritually encouraging us all while he dances with his ancestors among the stars. - Posted by: Marlyn Bennett (PhD Student) on: Sep 22, 2019

  • I owe my academic success at University of Manitoba to Deo. Deo was also a student but two years ahead of me in September 1966. I had just failed my first exam in Psychology 101, in the first term. It was heart breaking. I had studied hard but still failed. I felt that I was not smart enough to get a university degree. Deo, who I had met a month or so ago, learned of my predicament and had a chat with me. He explained that in the Caribbean we study to write essay type answers, so the way we study, is to memorize to regurgitate in essay form, but multiple choice exams in Canada, require a different way to study, i.e., study for recognition. That advice made all the difference in my going on to obtain my B.Comm. (Hons). I will always be indebted to Deo for that intervention and our 53 years of friendship having had supper with him and friends in Trinidad a few months ago. May he Rest in Peace and obtain his place in Heaven. - Posted by: Conrad Aleong (Friend) on: Sep 22, 2019

  • Deo and I grew up in the same village. He was very proud of where he came from. Education was always paramount in his life and worked tirelessly to get there. He lived a simple life and was never boastful. As a young man my cousin Eric (a teacher) gave extra lessons to improve his chances of success in life and he absorbed the education he was given. He always had a kind word when he saw me. Rest now. - Posted by: Carol Niven (Friend ) on: Sep 21, 2019

  • I extend my sincere condolence to Deo's immediate family in Canada and his extended family in Trinidad and oversesas. Deo and I were classmates in Iere High School, Siparia, Trinidad, along with several others who currently reside in Canada. We were in the first graduation class 1958. Iere is now among the elite high schools in Trinidad and Tobago. We proceeded to different high schools for our sixth form studies, Cambridge University Higher School Certificate, and later reconnected through my brother Charles who lives in Winnipeg when Deo attended the University of Manitoba, and later joined its Faculty of Education. His academic credentials were quite impressive as Prof. K.P Binda has described. I will remember Deo not only for his erudition, but also his sense of humour and hearty laughter. We kept in touch via the telephone and later via e-mail. I spoke to him last before he left to visit family and friends in Trinidad earlier this year. The last time I saw him was in May 2015 when I attended a Refugee Sponsorship Conference in Winnipeg as the Refugee Co-ordinator (Volunteer) on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Qu'Appelle in Saskatchewan. We spent a wonderful day together recalling our high school days, friends and teachers. We also visited the grave site of a mutual friend in Selkirk, Manitoba, who had died quite prematurely. May Deo rest in peace and May God bless his family. Ralph Paragg - Posted by: Ralph R. Paragg (Friend) on: Sep 21, 2019

  • I am very sorry to hear of Deo's passing. I had the privilege of working with Deo during his tenure with BUNTEP at Brandon University. He had strong dedication to the students and education for Northern Communities. We worked hard but we also laughed hard. Rest in Peace my friend. - Posted by: Shirleen Chambers (Friend) on: Sep 20, 2019

  • The news of my uncle's passing came with great sadness. My uncle came from very humble beginnings and was dearly loved by all. I am proud to say his many achievements never made him puffed up but instead he remained humble. We will always remember his encouragement to everyone to study, to earn that degree, to get your Masters and Phd and his great concern for your health. We will surely miss Uncle Deo and he will always have a special place in our hearts. We know his journey here on earth was a successful one and pray that his soul rest in peace. Till we meet again Uncle Deo, we love you. Your niece, Annie R.I.P. - Posted by: Annie Poonwassie (Niec) on: Sep 19, 2019

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