Passings: Yvonne Aziz (LLD [Hon.] ’85), retired executive officer to Presidents Murray Ross and H. Ian Macdonald

Yvonne Tempe Aziz (nee Salmon), former executive officer to York University’s first president Murray Ross and then to President Emeritus H. Ian Macdonald, died peacefully on Nov. 15 in Toronto in her 101st year.

Yvonne Tempe Aziz

A third-generation Australian, she was born in New South Wales on May 14, 1919. Raised and educated in Sydney, Australia, Yvonne was a gifted linguist, fluent in French and German, in addition to her native English. Her love of language prompted her travel to Europe at a young age and, in 1939, she left her native Australia first for England and then to France where she planned to study at the Sorbonne. The winds of the Second World War and the aggression of Germany saw her leave France for England, where she became a freelance translator for the British Foreign Office before immigrating to New York, NY, where she worked for British Security Coordination – the covert organization set up by the British Intelligence Service (MI6) on the authorization of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Following her marriage in 1944 to Abdul Aziz, a member of the Royal Indian Engineers, she relocated to India where she lived through the turbulent and often violent period of the country’s independence that resulted in its partitioning into the current nations of India and Pakistan. Her son, Julian, was born in New Delhi in 1946 and her daughter, Jane, in Karachi, Pakistan in 1949. Yvonne, her husband and daughter came to Canada in 1957 to settle in Toronto, and were later joined by their son in 1959.

In Toronto, Yvonne worked for the Canadian Association of Adult Education and soon became the editor of the association’s journal, Continuous Learning. In 1964, she joined the staff of York University, moving to the Office of the President, where she distinguished herself, not only as an effective, competent and outstanding administrator, but as a woman of deep social conscience and a tireless champion of her gender. Over the years of her service to York University through to her retirement, Yvonne’s work ethic, uncompromising integrity, quiet dignity, tact, charm and dedication all combined to see her become one of the most beloved and respected members of the York University community.

In 1985, York University honored her with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of her distinguished career of service as an administrator for the University, respected colleague and valued friend. Through all, she was a devoted wife, a wise and loving mother, and a proud and adoring great/grandmother. Yvonne was an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life for a full century across four continents during some of the most tempestuous and challenging times in modern history.

The memory that she lived her life with grace and courage will endure. Friends are welcome to pay their respects to Yvonne on Monday, Nov. 25, at St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church at 19 Don Ridge Drive, Toronto. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. followed by a reception at the church.

If desired, and in lieu of flowers, a donation in her memory may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, 250 Dundas Street West, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2Z5.

Yvonne was predeceased by her beloved husband Abdul, who died in 2003. They were married for nearly 60 years. She was the loving and dedicated mother of Jane Griffiths of Markham and Julian Aziz (Jennifer Dakin) of Oakville. Yvonne was also the devoted and cherished grandmother of Lesley Griffiths (Andrew), Michael Griffiths, Courtney Reistetter, Megan Kempe (Somers), Ryan Folk (Jay) and Connolly Aziz, and affectionately known as “Great Grammy” to all 10 of her adoring great-grandchildren.