The search is on for York’s new chancellor

Helen Sinclair, Chair of the Chancellor’s Search Committee at York, is putting out a call for someone to don the mantle of  University chancellor. Distinguished York Chancellor Avie Bennett (left and below, right) is completing his term in November of this year. Bennett was appointed to the position in May 1998.

A search committee has been set up to seek a new chancellor, and is inviting the York community to submit suggestions for Bennett’s successor. The committee, comprising members of the University’s Board of Governors and Senate, including both students and alumni, is working quickly so that a new chancellor can be installed by, or at, the 2004 spring convocation.

Search committee’s criteria

In its quest, the search committee has decided to use the long established criteria, as follows:

  • The chancellor should be a highly esteemed individual who is regarded as a leader in the community at large, who commands the respect of the academic community and who is able to build bridges between the two;
  • He or she must have the capacity to convey the value of universities and their concerns to government and the public and to remind the University of the needs and expectations of society;
  • The chancellor should have the time at his/her disposal to play an active role in the affairs of the York Board of Governors, and, ideally, should reside in the Toronto area so that he/she may participate in the on-going life of the University;
  • He/she should not have been a chancellor at another institution.

Please make your suggestions by no later than Aug. 25, 2003. Any biographical information which might assist the committee in its deliberations would be much appreciated. All suggestions will be treated as confidential.

Suggestions should be forwarded to:

Harriet Lewis
University Secretary and General Counsel
N945 Ross Building
York University
4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
FAX: 416-736-5094

What is the role of University chancellor?

The University chancellor is an ex officio member of all York Board of Governors committees and sits on the University Senate and the Senate Sub-Committee on Honorary Degrees and Ceremonials.

Anyone who has been at a York convocation ceremony in recent years is familiar with Avie Bennett’s clear and dignified voice as he formally confers degrees on the group of graduates at each ceremony, saying, “Admitto vos ad gradum.”

Carrying out his duties as York chancellor has been only one of the many hats Bennett has worn. He has also has been a member of the Premier’s Economic Council of Ontario and the Governing Council of the University of Toronto; a board member of many organizations including the National Ballet of Canada, the National Ballet Foundation, and ABC Canada; and member of the Advisory Board of the National Ballet School and the United Way of Greater Toronto.

York’s other illustrious chancellors

Air Marshal Wilfrid A. Curtis (right) was York’s first chancellor who, as a strong proponent of the new University, was Chair of the founding organizing committee. He was chancellor from December 1959 to June 1968, and after he stepped down from the position, was honoured by the University with an honorary doctor of laws in the fall of 1968 and the naming of the Curtis Lecture Halls after him in 1971.

A World War I flying ace, Curtis was the founder of the Toronto Flying Club and was awarded a gold medal by the Canadian Flyers Club Association in 1936. Curtis was vice-chairman of A.V. Roe Aircraft and subsequently of Hawker Siddeley. In addition, he was director of six different organizations including the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation.

Chancellors between Curtis and Bennett are as follows:

  • Floyd S. Chalmers: July 1968 – September 1973
  • Walter L. Gordon: October 1973 – November 1977
  • John P. Robarts: December 1977 – May 1982
  • John S. Proctor: May 1982 – September 1983
  • J. Tuzo Wilson: September 1983 – June 1986
  • Larry Clarke: July 1986 – June 1991
  • Oscar Peterson: September 1991 – February 1994
  • Arden Haynes: February 1994 – April 1998

John Robarts (left), after whom York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies is named, was premier of Ontario from 1961 to 1971. Named minister of education in 1959, he was responsible for launching the Ontario Scholarships program and expanding trade institutes and teacher’s colleges in what became known as the Robarts Plan.


Walter Gordon (right), after whom York’s Walter L. Gordon Research Fellowship, given to a distinguished scholar at York, is named, was federal minister of finance in 1963. In 1968 he returned to private business and became Chair of the board of the company he founded in 1944, the Canadian Corporate Management Company Limited, and a director of Toronto Star Limited. In addition, Gordon was one of the founders of the Committee for an Independent Canada and author of two books. He received an honorary doctor of laws from York in the spring of 1978.

Oscar Peterson is recognized as one the world’s finest jazz pianists. He has recorded over 80 albums in his own name and is a six-time Grammy Award winner, 12-time Playboy Award winner and 13-time DownBest Award winner. Peterson was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, inducted into the Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1978 and promoted to Companion of the Order in 1984. He is also an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters, France, and a Chevalier in the Order of Quebec. Peterson was an adjunct jazz studies professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts Department of Music and received an honorary doctor of letters from York in the spring of 1982.

This space is reserved for the next chancellor….