John Becker, who worked at York in various capacities for 23 years until he retired in 1989, died of prostate cancer on Wednesday, Sept. 22. He was 78.
Mr. Becker served in executive support roles to D. McCormack Smyth, founding dean of Atkinson College at York, and in the president’s office with Henry Best, the assistant to founding president Murray Ross, from 1966 to 1969. For the next 15 years, Mr. Becker was assistant vice-president student relations.
During this period he worked closely with the masters of the undergraduate colleges, the dean of students at Glendon and the associate deans of Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business to deliver all student services as well as both co-curricular and extracurricular programming.
His office also oversaw student government, counseling, convocations, as well as student conduct and dispute resolution. In 1984, Mr. Becker became assistant vice-president business operations, a position he held until he retired in 1989. In addition, Becker served as the first senior tutor of McLaughlin College under its founding master George Tatham in the late 1960s and later as the college’s residence tutor for its second master, George Doxey, in the early 1980s.
“From my vantage point, John was the heart and soul of York throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. He was the source of information to students, staff and faculty, and the facilitator of many solutions,” says Steve Dranitsaris, senior executive officer in the Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration.
The University of Toronto’s Hart House was a major influence in Mr. Becker’s life and work before and after York, first as a member of the Hart House Finnish Exchange program, then in his role of undergraduate secretary. Following his retirement from York, he worked in the family firm, Becker Associates, and was instrumental in steering it in new directions. He also had time to indulge his love of researching family trees and developed a new passion for painting watercolours. Recently, he served as volunteer editor of Families, the journal of the Ontario Genealogical Society.
Mr. Becker leaves his wife of 54 years Gwenne (née Belsten), daughter Christina, sons Adam and Paul, grandchildren Carolina, Max and Lorraine, as well as his brother Dean and twin brother Keith.
A private family service and cremation have already taken place. A celebration of Mr. Becker’s life will be held at Trinity St. Paul’s United Church (427 Bloor St. W., Toronto) Wednesday, Oct.13, from 3 to 6pm.
Friends and family may make a donation in Mr. Becker’s memory to the Hart House Finnish Exchange at the University of Toronto.