Roy McMurtry to become York’s next chancellor

The York University Board of Governors yesterday announced the appointment of Roy McMurtry, former Ontario chief justice and attorney general, as the 12th chancellor of York University. McMurtry, who also served as Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, will be installed as chancellor in May.

"Roy McMurtry has helped shape the legal and social framework of Ontario, and York University is fortunate to have him in this important leadership role," said Marshall Cohen, Chair of the Board of Governors of York University.

McMurtry will succeed former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter deCarteret Cory, who has served as York’s chancellor since 2004.

Right: Roy McMurtry

"Peter deCarteret Cory has done an outstanding job as chancellor and ambassador for York over the last four years," said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. "And I have no doubt that York will benefit greatly from Roy McMurtry’s vision and leadership in the years to come."

Born in Toronto, McMurtry, 75, received an honours degree in history from the University of Toronto in 1954 and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958. He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1958. After practising as a trial lawyer for 17 years, he was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1975, where he was appointed attorney general by then-premier William Davis. As attorney general, McMurtry argued major constitutional cases in the Supreme Court of Canada and played a key role in the proclamation of Canada’s new Constitution in 1982. From 1978 until 1982 he also took on the position of solicitor general. McMurtry left office in 1985 to become Canada’s high commissioner (ambassador) to the United Kingdom. In this role he chaired the Commonwealth Heads of Government Committee (on South Africa), which played an important role in ending apartheid in South Africa and freeing Nelson Mandela from prison. In 1996, he was appointed chief justice of Ontario and held that position for 11 years, retiring in 2007. 

Prior to his political career, McMurtry was involved in a wide range of public service, including Big Brothers, rehabilitation projects for former penitentiary inmates, senior citizens’ housing and multicultural initiatives. He is a long-time supporter of adult education, dating back to his university days when he worked and taught at Frontier College, one of Canada’s first adult education institutions.

"With its commitment to social justice and community involvement, and the limitless potential of its students, York University has much to offer this province and this country," said McMurtry. "I am delighted and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as chancellor of York."

McMurtry is the founder and president of The Osgoode Society, a body established in 1979 for the writing of Canadian legal history. Last year, his significant contributions to the legal profession were recognized with Osgoode Hall Law School’s Award of Excellence (The Robinette Medal) and the President of the Canadian Bar Association’s Award of Merit. He also received an honorary degree from York University in 1991. On Jan. 24, 2008, he was invested in the Order of Ontario.

McMurtry is married to Ria Jean Macrae, with whom he has six children.