Passings: Charles Edward (Ted) Rathé

A field of flowers at sunset

Professor Emeritus Charles Edward (Ted) Rathé died peacefully in his sleep on the morning of May 5 at the Russell Hill Retirement Residence in Toronto. He was 94 years old. Prof. Rathé taught at York University for more than 20 years.

Born in 1928 to Charles and Jeanie (née Adam) during a fierce mid-April Toronto blizzard, Prof. Rathé grew up during the Depression years in the Oakwood area of Toronto, steeped in the Scottish heritage of his mother, and the Franco- and Anglo-Canadian heritage of his father.

He attended Vaughan Road Collegiate where he excelled academically and edited his 1946 graduation yearbook. Prof. Rathé always had a keen interest in foreign languages and culture, especially French, and he certainly had the gift of the gab. He would always say that to master a foreign language one really had to be a bit of a performer. Prof. Rathé’s natural ability served him well as an undergraduate student in modern language and literature (French and German) at Victoria College where he studied from 1946-50. Without any French- or German-speaking parents, he quickly became a fluent speaker of French and a proficient speaker of German. Following his undergraduate studies, he completed an MA in history while working at Victoria College as an instructor in the French Department. In 1954-55 he started his PhD in French literature after which he earned an interdisciplinary doctorate in Renaissance studies from Syracuse University. His path led him back to Victoria College, where he held the position of professor until the late 1960s. Prof. Rathé was heavily involved in the growth of the Alliance Française in Toronto during this period, and in 1969, he was invited to Chair the Department of French Studies at York University, where he worked for more than 20 years.

At York University, Prof. Rathé became the head of Founders College. He had a charismatic style that blended a high degree of intellectualism with down-to-earth common sense, humility, openness and sense of humour. He is remembered as a highly caring and selfless individual who was deeply committed to helping develop people – young people in particular – to see their own potential, to overcome obstacles, to strive for their goals and to achieve success.

As master of Founders College, as Chair of the Council of College Masters, as professor of French studies, as Chair and a member of numerous departmental, Faculty, senate and University-wide committees, Prof. Rathé tirelessly articulated the cause and, indeed, was a champion for promoting the quality of undergraduate student experience at York University and opportunities for students to grow and learn outside the formal classroom setting. In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, at which he excelled, Prof. Rathé served as a role model, mentor and friend to countless students and former students. For many years, he also found time to be academic advisor to student-athletes on the varsity football team.

Prof. Rathé had a strong visible presence on campus at meetings, activities and events, with students, with alumni, and with faculty colleagues. While he promoted community and collegiality, he embodied both. When he stepped down as master of Founders, the college community fittingly created the C. Edward Rathé Scholarship to award annually a student contribution to “citizenship.” Prof. Rathé personally supported this scholarship over the years.

During his retirement years, Prof. Rathé continued to be involved with Founders College and the C. Edward Rathe Scholarship. He was actively involved in several other student award initiatives at York, including a key role in the awards and scholarships program of the School of Kinesiology and Health Science. Over the years, he opened his home to host fundraising events in support awards for students.

Prof. Rathé met his wife Alice, who also taught French Literature at Victoria College. Together they raised their three children and provided for them a culturally rich life of music, language and the arts. France, and especially Paris, was a place they were both extremely fond of, and in 1974 the couple took the entire family to the French capital, establishing their home there for a sabbatical year. Making friends wherever he went came naturally to Prof. Rathé and as a brilliant raconteur and joke teller people naturally gravitated to him. He had a very wide circle of friends throughout his life, who meant the world to him. With his cultural interests, his charity work, his wide social network and his exceptional and wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour, Prof. Rathé mastered the art of living and through his 94 years came to embody a life well lived.

He will be deeply missed by his children, grandchildren, extended family and many friends. A special note of thanks must go to the staff and his friends at the Russell Hill Retirement Residence, his home through his later years. Prof. Rathé and his beloved Alice are reunited again. A celebration of his life has taken place.