Passings: Remembering the incomparable Joe Green

Joseph Green

Known for his booming voice, huge heart and eternal generosity, York Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Joseph Green, has died of renal and bladder cancer on Feb. 3 at the Kensington Hospice in Toronto, Ontario.

Joe Green

Prof. Green (or “Joe” as he was known by all) had a long and illustrious career in theatre and was a proud and ardent supporter of the Arts in all of its forms. It could be said that his life’s work was a grand and passionate play, with his students as rising stars in Canadian theatre cast in central roles.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Joe received his PhD in Dramatic Theory and Rhetoric from Indiana University in 1964 and his BA in Theatre from Temple University, Philadelphia, in 1956. Joe taught at The University of Louisville, Indiana University South Bend, and Hunter College, before coming to York University in 1968. Subsequently, he became a proud citizen of his new country. He served as Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, from 1973 until 1980, working to establish the departments of Visual Art, Dance, Film, Music and Theatre, as well as The York Winds Ensemble and the York Theatre Review.

“Joe was a transformational figure at York and in the Toronto arts scene,” said Shawn Brixey, dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. “His radiant energy, artistic curiosity, sense of humour, razor-sharp wit, and intellectual depth helped lay the foundation for what has become a thriving culture of creativity and artistic innovation at York. He will be deeply missed and eternally remembered.”

Joe brought onto the Faculty such Canadian icons as Mavor Moore (“Mr. Theatre”), and established the York Performance Artists Series at Burton Auditorium, showcasing such artists as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alan Ginsberg, Tom Wolfe and Henry Moore, to name but a few. Many of Joe’s former students and faculty appointments have gone on to fill important positions in Toronto, across Canada and beyond.

“Joe had a booming voice, a huge heart, a wicked sense of humour and an inspiring passion,” said Ines Buchl, chair of the Department of Theatre at York University. “If you met Joe you could never forget him. His profound legacy will live on in the Joseph Green Theatre in the Centre for Film and Theatre.”

He helped found, and served as director of, York’s MBA Program in Arts Administration at the Schulich School of Business, and later served as chair of the Board of Directors of CulTech Collaborative Research Centre. Joe served as a consultant for the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, New York State Council on the Arts, the American Theatre Association and the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

He developed the initial proposals for the York Master of Fine Arts degrees. When he took early retirement in 1994, Joe held the rank of full Professor in the Faculties of Fine Arts (Theatre), Arts (Humanities) and Administrative Studies (Policy and Strategy).

In addition to his academic career, Joe was producer of many stage and TV productions. He developed, along with Gordon Hinch, the mini-series Glory Enough for All, which won a record-setting nine Gemini awards.

As chair of Democrats Abroad (Canada), and international voter registration chair, Joe worked to bring in the democratic vote to Americans across the globe. For his local community, he served on the boards of the Toronto Garden District Residents’ Association, and the Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network.

His last legacy was the CBC interview: Joe Green Speaks of Life, Death and Love. Joe inspired many people with the grace, acceptance and openness he displayed while facing life’s final stages.

His family is grateful for the extraordinary care and compassion of doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers at Kensington Hospice that allowed Joe to live in comfort for many more months than expected. Funeral services took place on Sunday, Feb. 5, at Benjamin’s Memorial Chapel in Toronto. Shiva has begun and will continue at the residence of Rhoda Green, 130 Carlton Street, suite 509 (please check in with security) on Tuesday from 2 tp 4 and 7 to 9pm, and on Wednesday from 7 to 9pm. Details can be found here:

The family requests that donations in his memory go towards the Kensington Hospice. Information is available here: