Passings: Joy Cohnstaedt

A field of flowers at sunset

Joy Cohnstaedt, an esteemed professor emerita and former dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York University, passed away on March 27.

Joy Cohnstaedt
Joy Cohnstaedt

Prior to her tenure at York University, Professor Cohnstaedt held several prestigious roles, including Chair of the Ontario Council of University Affairs, deputy minister of culture, heritage and recreation in Manitoba, and executive director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Her field of study focused on comparative cultural policy, arts and the law, arts and cultural administration, and minorities and the arts. She was a respected figure in her field, as demonstrated by her receiving the Bora Laskin National Fellowship in Human Rights Research. This prestigious award was in recognition of her work related to cultural and communication policy.

After retiring from her tenured position at York, Cohnstaedt continued to teach and supervise graduate students for an additional decade, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to education and her students.

“Joy Cohnstaedt arrived at York with extensive experience bridging arts practice, cultural heritage, and cultural policy-making and practice. As Dean, she steered the then Faculty of Fine Arts at York at a moment of intense global political and cultural change. Her approach to both to heritage and cultural preservation and to Canadian Multiculturalism had a profound influence on students and colleagues,” says Michael Darroch, Interim Dean, School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design.

Beyond her academic contributions, Cohnstaedt also made a significant impact in the community. She volunteered with the Canadian Textile Museum for over a decade and served as a board member of the Baby Point Heritage Foundation. In 2019, her contributions to local heritage activities were recognized by the Etobicoke Historical Society with the Jean Hibbert Memorial Award.

A simple memorial will be held this month, both in person and online. To receive details about this spring gathering, email