David W. Slater, president emeritus of York, has died at the age of 88 after a brief illness. The economist and former senior civil servant in Canada’s Department of Finance was York’s second president & vice-chancellor, from 1970 to 1973.
In Slater’s honour, York’s flag was flown at half-mast on Friday and Saturday.
Slater’s daughter Leslie (MBA ’87), a Schulich grad and former instructor in the MBA program from 1990 to 2000, said her father had been growing weaker as he aged but only became seriously ill about 10 days before he died Feb. 9 in an Ottawa nursing home where he’d been living for several years.
Michiel Horn, University historian and professor emeritus at Glendon, described Slater in his official history of York, York Unviersity: The Way Must be Tried, as a “tall, personable 48-year-old with an excellent curriculum vitae” when he became the first person to succeed Murray Ross, York’s founding president, in 1970. Slater’s appointment came just as York was entering one of the most difficult periods in its history: a financial crisis caused by a drop in enrolment after the heady days of growth in the 1960s.
In what Horn calls “an event unique in Canadian university history”, Slater resigned under pressure in January 1973, saying it was "in the best interests of the University", before the end of his seven-year term. He was succeeded by two acting presidents who served until H. Ian Macdonald was appointed president & vice-chancellor in 1974.
Slater received a bachelor of commerce degree in 1942 from the University of Manitoba. After serving in Europe with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps during the Second World War (and being Mentioned in Dispatches), he received a bachelor of arts degree in economics in 1947 from Queen’s University. He received a master of arts degree in 1950 and a PhD in 1957 from the University of Chicago.
In 1952, he joined the faculty of Queen’s, teaching economics, and from 1968 to 1970 he served as dean of the School of Graduate Studies.
Joining the Canadian civil service, Slater was appointed general director of the Fiscal Policy & Economic Analysis Branch in the Department of Finance in 1973. From 1978 to 1985, he was the director and then chair of the Economic Council of Canada.
David Walker Slater was born in Winnipeg, Man. He is survived by four daughters: Leslie Slater, Barbara Slater, Gail Cullum (MBA ’81) and Carolyn Montague. He was predeceased by his wife Lillian.
The family is planning a celebration of his life in mid-May at Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, Ottawa. In lieu of flowers at that event, memorial donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or Alzheimers Society would be appreciated.