Patrick Solomon championed equity, diversity and social justice

Professor Patrick Solomon, one of the pioneers of the Urban Diversity Initiative at York’s Faculty of Education, died of cancer Oct. 4, surrounded by his family.  

Solomon graduated from the Mico Teachers College (now the Mico University College), Jamaica, and taught in Jamaica before moving to Canada in 1969. He completed a BA at Waterloo University in 1973, an MEd in educational administration at University of Western Ontario in 1978, and a PhD in social foundations of education at the State University of New York in 1987.

Right: Patrick Solomon

Solomon was engaged in equity, diversity and social justice works for most of his professional career as an elementary and secondary school teacher, school administrator and university professor. In 1991, he began working in York’s Faculty of Education where he launched the Urban Diversity Initiative in 1994. The first of its kind in the province, this initiative was developed in response to a call by the Ontario Ministry of Education for institutions to make teacher education more relevant to the province’s increasingly diverse population and to integrate issues of equity, diversity and social justice into the schooling process. To date close to 1,000 teachers have graduated from the program and are using what they have learned to engage and empower students in classrooms across Toronto and beyond.  

In 2005, he received the prestigious American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics’ Choice award for Teaching for Equity & Diversity: Research to Practice, a book he produced with C. Levine-Rasky. In 2003, he received the first annual Exemplary Multicultural Educators Award by the Canadian Council of Multicultural Educators for his multicultural and anti-racism education research and practice with teachers.

Solomon maintained strong links to his native Jamaica through the many student exchanges that he organized between York and the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus, Jamaica). He was also actively involved with the Toronto chapter of the Mico University College Alumni Association, serving on the board of directors and on the education committee. In November 2007, he and his wife Sylvia made a donation to Mico to create an award for a student pursuing an education degree through the Urban Diversity Initiative at York University. Most recently, he was working on a research project that prepares teacher educators for community pedagogy at the International University of the Caribbean (Jamaica) through an International Opportunities Fund from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

“Patrick was a wonderful colleague and an active participant at so many levels of faculty life,” commented Alice Pitt, dean of York’s Faculty of Education. “He will be greatly missed, but the passion and commitment that he brought to us will continue.” 

He is survived by his wife Sylvia and son Christopher. 

The Faculty of Education is planning a memorial at a future date and has set up a student award in his name. Donations can be mailed to the Patrick Solomon Award c/o the York University Foundation, West Office Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 or called in to 416-650-8210.