Passings: William Dimma

A field of flowers at sunset

A long-standing advocate and changemaker at York University, Professor Emeritus William (Bill) Dimma, died quietly in his sleep on Thursday, Dec. 22 in Toronto. Dimma served the University for several decades as a professor, dean, member and Chair of the Board of Governors.

William (Bill) Dimma
William (Bill) Dimma

Born on Aug. 13, 1928, in Montreal, Que., Dimma received a bachelor of applied science degree from the University of Toronto in 1948, a master of business administration degree from York University in 1969 and a doctor of business administration from Harvard University in 1973.

From 1974-76, he was a professor and dean of the (former) Faculty of Administrative Studies at York University.

Described as “one of York’s greatest enthusiasts,” Dimma was awarded a doctor of laws (honoris causa) in 1998 by York in recognition of his multifaceted association with the University as a student, faculty member, dean and his role in governance. Dimma was a member of the Board of Governors of York University from 1976 to 1997 and was the Board of Governors Chair from 1992-97. During this time, he devoted, on average, a full 20 per cent of his long work week to the betterment of York University. In this period, he also served the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children for 15 years, somehow finding time to Chair the investment committee and to sit on many other task forces and committees.

He was also a driving force and a key donor in the creation of the Jarislowsky-Dimma-Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance, established jointly at the Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School in 2006.

From 1987 and into the early 1990s, Dimma spoke and wrote extensively on business ethics and became a highly respected leader within the corporate community for his advocacy of a greater sense of ethical awareness and of higher ethical standards. He is the author of Excellence in the Boardroom: Best Practices in Corporate Directorship. For his work in this field, St. Mary’s University awarded him an honorary degree in 1992. He is remembered as a keeper of corporate consciences, a reputation for excellence that earned him a place on 90 corporate boards, invitations to speak in many academic and business fora, and a well-deserved role in public and community affairs.

Dimma was awarded the Gold Medal in the Doctoral Program, Graduate School of Business, Harvard University. His other awards include the York University Business School Alumni Award for Outstanding Corporate Leadership, 1992, and the Order of Canada, 1996. In 1999, he was made a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors. In 2000, he was made a member of the Order of Ontario.

In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Dimma was a talented swimmer and cross-country skier. He played water polo and squash while he was a student at the University of Toronto, and he garnered multiple master points in Bridge. He also loved travelling with his wife, and with his family.

He was married for 61 years, and he leaves his wife Louise (Ash), daughters Katherine and Suzanne, and son-in-law, Arriz Hassam.

Cremation has taken place, and a private family interment will take place in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the spring. Donations in Dimma’s memory can be made to York University here. Visit Schulich’s memorial tribute page here.