Two unsung York founders honoured in naming ceremony




Above: Officially declaring the newly named William McLean Walkway open, with, left to right, Gary Brewer, York VP finance & administration; André Galipeault and Marilyn Abram, York Board of Governors members; Paul McLean, June McLean and Martha McLean, William McLean’s son, widow and daughter-in-law; Nalini Stewart, York Board of Governors member; James McLean, William McLean’s grandson; and Lorna R. Marsden, York president and vice-chancellor


Two modest men, who loom large in the minds of people who remember when buildings first began to rise on the field that is now bustling York University, are at last getting the honours they deserve for their dedication to the University.


Left: William Small


Right: William McLean, in a photo taken by renowned photographer Yousef Karsh


Until now unsung champions of York, William Small, founding comptroller and first secretary to the University’s Board of Governors, and William McLean, one of the University’s earliest board members, never sought recognition for their numerous contributions to York. Nevertheless, York has recognized them – in an outdoor ceremony attended by over 100 people, including family members of the honourees.


“Now we have the chance to recognize them in perpetuity, to recognize their vision, their attention to detail and their generous spirits,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden speaking to guests seated on the walkway near the Chemistry Building on Monday, Aug. 11. 



Right: President Lorna R. Marsden


Indicating a path lined with mature trees and newly planted shrubs, between the newly named William Small Centre (formerly Parking Structure II) and the Chemistry Building on one side and Bethune and Stong Colleges on the other, Marsden said, “There is the walkway, now named the William McLean Walkway, which joins the north part of the Keele campus with the south, and serves the University well.


“And there is the William Small Centre, where you’ll find Security Services, Parking and Transportation Services, Computing and Network Services, and even an [astronomical] observation platform on the rooftop.


“The walkway and the centre have enhanced the entire York community.”



Left: Some of the people in attendance at the naming ceremony


Humour evident in her voice, Marsden said Small and McLean would have appreciated why there would be no unveiling of the new William Small Centre and William McLean Walkway signs during the ceremony on Aug. 11.


“The signs are high,” said Marsden, motioning to one alongside the William Small Centre, “so that they can’t be vandalized easily. But that means we can’t reach them, either!”, she added, to laughter. Later, family members unveiled a symbolic plaque in tribute to Small.


Marsden described Small as the “underpinning” of York, a person who attended to details in a “quiet and remarkable style.” Inducted as a member of York’s Founders society during the 40th anniversary celebrations, he served as secretary to the University Board of Governors from 1959 to 1966, was secretary to the first meeting of the York Senate and was the first vice-president administration, retiring under the title of VP university services in 1983.


“Recently, we celebrated the 500th meeting of senate,” said Marsden. ‘Today, senate meetings last about two hours and are attended by about 200 people. When William Small was secretary at the first meeting, it lasted 15 minutes, was attended by five people – and during that meeting those people created the Faculties at the University.


“They were a very effective team,” Marsden said to more laughter from the audience, adding, “and Bill himself was a team player.”


Right: Shirley Endicott Small at the podium, with William Small’s daughters behind, from left, Lorraine and Barbara. Daughter Kathy is out of view, standing behind Endicott Small.


Shirley Endicott Small, widow of William, who died in February 2003, was delighted to know that a building was named in honour of her husband. “He might be surprised at this, but he would be truly pleased. He loved York, and he always liked to give academic staff under his supervision their due by way of credit and recognition. Surely this building advances that dream.”


For several years, Small taught a course at Founders College on Chinese culture. His interest in China stemmed from his early education in that country, when his parents were there as missionaries and his father became involved in the construction of the West China University of Medical Sciences. Later, Small himself worked as a missionary in China and was present during the revolution of 1949.


Marsden then turned the talk to McLean’s dedication to the Board of Governors, of which he was a member from 1961 to 1974, and to the significant contributions he made to several committees in the areas of finance, planning and corporate governance. Fittingly, he even sat on the Committee on Names in 1966, thus joining colleagues in recommending names of the growing number of campus structures on the Keele campus.


Before he came to York, McLean served abroad with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1946. When he returned to Canada, he advanced quickly to become a prominent leader in the business community, first as president of Canada Packers in 1954, and later, as a director of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in the 1960s. He also served on the board of the Toronto Western Hospital.




Marsden said that, as one of York’s earliest board members, McLean was also “one of York’s earliest champions. His practical advice, ideas and steady guidance set this University on the road to success.”


McLean died in 2001, but several members of his family were in attendance at the ceremony. Flanked by their son, daughter-in-law and grandson, his widow, June, proudly cut the red ribbon officially opening the interlocking-brick walkway.


Below: The William Small Centre