Passings: Longtime York University supporter Paul Cantor leaves legacy to be inspired by

Paul Cantor addresses graduates at upon receiving his honorary doctorate, at the Fall 2012 Convocation
Paul Cantor addresses graduates at upon receiving his honorary doctorate, at the Fall 2012 Convocation

The York University community mourns the loss of longtime supporter Paul Cantor, who died on Aug. 10 and leaves behind a legacy to be inspired by.

Cantor, a well-known and highly respected fixture at York University, spent more than two decades serving the University and will be remembered for making significant contributions to York, as well as to education in Ontario.

Paul Cantor addresses graduates at upon receiving his honorary doctorate, at the Fall 2012 Convocation
Paul Cantor delivering his address during the Fall 2012 Convocation

His earliest contributions to the University began in the late 1960s. At that time, he was attending law school, and became a don in the Glendon College student residence. Years later, Cantor gave his time to the Advisory Council of the Schulich School of Business, and went on to become founding executive director of the Toronto International Leadership Centre, a program sponsored jointly by the Schulich School of Business, the Canadian government and the World Bank to provide leadership training to government officials in developing countries.

He served on the York University Board of Governors and remained there for more than two decades, holding the position of chair from 2009-12. He was a member of the Executive Committee, chair of the Nominations and Governance Committee, and was a member of the Finance and Staff Resource Committees. He also served as chair of the York University Pension Fund Board of Trustees.

“Paul was a tremendous champion of York University and of post-secondary education in Canada,” said Rhonda L. Lenton, York’s president and vice-chancellor. “He was an individual of deep insight and integrity, and his decades-long commitment to public service and to education benefited the University greatly. We are deeply saddened by his passing, but his many contributions as a member of our Board of Governors and as chair, and as a long-cherished friend and supporter remain with us and reflect a powerful legacy of impact.”

Paul Cantor and Helen Sinclair at the Honour Court Donor Recognition event, honoring York’s most generous donors
Helen Sinclair and Paul Cantor at the Honour Court Donor Recognition event

A generous annual supporter of the University, Cantor established a scholarship, the Paul Cantor Award, in 2000 to benefit students pursuing studies in public policy and administration. To date, 27 students have received the Paul Cantor Award.

In 2012, during the first Fall Convocation ceremony, Cantor received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York University. At that time, he was a senior adviser at Bennett Jones LLP, and referred to York as a “constant in his career,” having been associated with the University, at that point, for close to 50 years.

“I am an alumnus of three other universities, and yet it is York University to which my loyalty is tied,” he said during his address.

Cantor’s professional career as a lawyer and business leader spanned the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, and he held several high-profile positions and appointments. He was CEO of the National Trust Company and president of investment banking at CIBC, and held positions at World University Service of Canada, Canada’s Department of Finance, Polysar Limited, Confederation Life and Russell Reynolds Associates.

In 2014, Cantor was appointed to the Order of Canada for his contributions as a world leader in investment management and his steadfast commitment to post-secondary education, and was noted for creating a legacy of integrity and civic engagement.

Cantor received his undergraduate arts degree from the University of Alberta, his law degree from the University of Toronto, and articled and was admitted to the Ontario bar from Goodmans LLP. His achievements were also recognized by the University of Alberta with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017.

Cantor is survived by his partner, Helen Sinclair, who holds an economics degree from Glendon College.

York University has set up a memorial donation page in honour of Paul Cantor. To learn more, visit

A celebration of life will be held at the York Club (135 St. George St.) on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m.

Read the obituary published in the Globe and Mail here.