Passings: Robert Murdie


Professor Emeritus Robert “Bob” Murdie, who spent almost his entire career with the Department of Geography at York University, passed away at the age of 84.

After joining York’s Department of Geography in 1968, Murdie enjoyed a long career as a dedicated teacher, an enthusiastic graduate supervisor, and a leading figure in Canadian urban and social geography – focusing especially on social housing and immigration studies by providing insight into the immigrant housing experience in Canada and the challenges experienced by newcomers.

Bob Murdie
Bob Murdie

“His work on social and economic indicators within the various neighbourhoods of metropolitan Toronto placed him squarely in the vanguard among those who laboured to bring depth and clarity to our understanding of the spatial dynamics of city growth,” says John Urquhart Marshall, a former Department of Geography colleague of Murdie’s. “Equally valuable are his later contributions regarding the impact of municipal policies upon housing development and immigrant absorption.”

“He did extraordinary research about urban housing markets. In 1992, he was one of the first to call attention to growing waiting lists for Toronto social housing, as tenants could not afford alternative rental or owned accommodation and stayed longer than any policymaker had anticipated,” says Professor Emerita of Geography Valerie Preston. “He did seminal research about the housing trajectories of immigrants and refugees that is incredibly timely right now.”

Murdie’s research interests led him to travel to various cities in Europe and to spend time as a guest researcher in Sweden and Amsterdam.

He also was enthusiastic about furthering others’ work and – in particular – enjoyed mentoring and encouraging his graduate students.

“He was a wonderful friend, a keen researcher and a superb teacher. He enriched the lives of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in the Geography Department,” remembers Professor Emeritus William Found, a colleague of Murdie’s at York for over 50 years.

If desired, donations in his memory can be made to the Woodgreen Foundation, SPRINT Senior Care, the Temmy Latner Centre or a charity of choice.

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

Passings: Wallace Crowston


Wallace Crowston, one of the longest-serving deans at York University’s Schulich School of Business, recently passed away at the age of 90.

Wallace Crowston
Wallace Crowston

A Toronto native, Crowston received his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toronto and then went on to attain graduate degrees in management sciences from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, where he eventually earned his PhD and became an associate professor.

Crowston joined York University’s Faculty of Administrative Studies (now named the Schulich School of Business) in 1972, and a short while later was appointed dean, a position he held until 1984. After having served two terms as dean, he remained on the Schulich faculty for another three years before leaving to become dean at McGill University’s Faculty of Management Studies.

While serving as dean at both Schulich and McGill’s business school, he pioneered various experiential learning and work/study programs that would become part of an evolution in post-secondary education that continues today. His research focused on the use of computer information systems in the field of project management, and his research articles were published in a number of major journals and business publications, including Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review.

At Schulich’s 50th Anniversary Gala celebration held in Toronto in 2016, Dean Emeritus Dezsö J. Horváth paid tribute to Crowston, noting in his speech: “If our school is one of the pre-eminent centres of management education today, it is in part due to the strong and steady leadership provided by Wally Crowston. Many of our most successful graduates came from the period in our school’s history when Wally was at the helm – and many of them are here tonight. We thank you for the leadership you provided.”

Many of his former colleagues and students would echo that sentiment.

Anyone wishing to honour Crowston for his leadership and dedication to Schulich during its formative years can make a donation to the Dean Wallace Crowston Memorial Fund.

Passings: Roy McMurtry

A field of flowers at sunset

Roy McMurtry, who served as York University’s 12th chancellor, and was a former Ontario chief justice and attorney general, has passed away at the age of 91.

McMurtry was appointed as York’s 12th chancellor in May of 2008, following his retirement from an extensive, successful law career.

Roy McMurtry
Roy McMurtry
Photo credit: Court of Appeal for Ontario

After graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958, McMurtry worked as a trial lawyer for 17 years. He then went on to be elected to the Ontario legislature and later was appointed attorney general in 1975. In 1979 he founded the Osgoode Society to promote and recognize the writing of Canadian legal history. He left office in 1985 to become Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom. In 1996, he was appointed chief justice of Ontario after serving as the chief of the Superior Court of Justice until his retirement in 2007.

Throughout McMurtry’s career, he was a champion of human rights, pushing against discrimination, and fighting for those who were under-represented in society. He has been credited for playing a key role in implementing bilingualism in courts of justice, in the patriation of Canada’s Constitution, in ending apartheid in South Africa and in legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario.

Among the many awards McMurtry won during his career were Osgoode Hall Law School’s Alumni Award of Excellence, the President of the Bar Association’s Award of Merit and an honorary degree form York University.

In 2008, the same year he was inducted into the Order of Ontario, McMurtry was named York’s 12th chancellor.

As chancellor, McMurtry served as the honorary head of York, conferring degrees, acting as an ambassador for the University and working to advance its interests. As a member of the President’s Task Force on Community Engagement, he also played a key role in the creation of a draft Statement and Principles on Community Engagement as well as the task force’s final report and recommendations, issued in February 2010.

At the time of McMurtry’s unanimous appointment to a second term as York’s chancellor, then York president and vice-chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri noted: “He is well-respected and extremely passionate about the entire York community, particularly our students. From the outset, his goal has been to encourage and promote the education of students and help them to become meaningfully engaged with their communities. Through his unwavering commitment, he has certainly accomplished that.”

By the end of his time at York, McMurtry had addressed over 100 convocations and conferred over 70,000 degrees upon graduating students.

When he stepped down, the University honoured his years of service with a special tribute: the Roy McMurtry Green in front of Osgoode Hall’s Ignat Kaneff Building, which also recognizes him with a plaque.

Roy McMurtry Green
Roy McMurtry Green

“York University has become a part of my DNA, so I am very grateful to receive this honour,” McMurtry said at the dedication ceremony. “It was a privilege to be a part of York’s journey and to bear witness to its unique diversity and strong determination to connect with the broader community. Serving as university chancellor was an unforgettable experience that I will always treasure. We should all be proud of what York has accomplished and will continue to accomplish.”

At the unveiling of the plaque and green, Shoukri shared words that resonate even now, following McMurtry’s passing. “The Roy McMurtry Green solidifies the chancellor’s legacy as a lifelong advocate for social justice and community engagement – a spirit that he brought with him to York,” Shoukri said. “His reputation as a champion of York University will endure as an inspiration for generations of students.”

Passings: Masaaki Naosaki

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A 2010 York University Sport Hall of Fame inductee, Masaaki Naosaki was a longtime gymnastics coach who led the York men’s team to unprecedented success. He passed away on March 8.

Naosaki only ever intended to stay at York for two years.

When head gymnastics coach Tom Zivic, a fellow York Hall of Famer, offered him a position as an assistant coach with the Yeomen gymnastics team in the early 1970s, he accepted, but planned on leaving Canada after his tenure.

Masaaki Naosaki
Masaaki Naosaki

Instead, two years became two decades.  
From 1972 to 1993, Naosaki – along with Zivic – guided the University’s men’s gymnastics program to 21 Ontario Universities Athletic Association (now Ontario University Athletics) gold medals and 18 Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (now U SPORTS) gold medals. His accomplishments earned him three U Sports coach of the year awards (1981,1982, 1986), as well as an induction in 2010 into the York University Sport Hall of Fame.

It wasn’t just York that benefited from his expertise and technical knowledge. He was called to represent Canada as the head coach of the men’s gymnastics team at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, as well the Commonwealth Games in 1981, the World University Games in 1985 and 1987, and the Pan American Games in 1979 and 1999.

These collective efforts led him to become the first gymnastics coach to receive the Coaching Association of Canada Excellence Award in 1988.

Throughout Naosaki’s coaching career, it wasn’t just athletic success that mattered to him. “Coaches are not just teaching sport skills, they are also teaching life skills. I like to see people succeed in any area, not just sport, and I continued [for all these years] because of the ability to influence people for a better life,” he once told York University Athletics.
As for his own life, he looked back with gratitude at the decision to stay in Canada

“It was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I realized this was my place to enhance what I wanted to do and I stayed because I enjoyed it so much.”

Those who wish to leave a message for the family may do so on his memorial web page.

Passings: Alexander Murray

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York University Professor Emeritus Alexander Lovell Murray died peacefully at home on Feb. 11 at the age of 95.

Alexander Lovell Murray
Alexander Lovell Murray

Before beginning his career in academia, Murray pursued his interest in urban and social change over the course of his post-secondary and graduate studies, including a bachelor of arts at McMaster University, a master of arts at King’s College London and a doctor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

After completing his degrees, Murray settled in Toronto with his wife, Laura, whom he met when he was 15 and was married to for 70 years. There, Murray became a faculty member at the then-new York University, where he co-founded both the Department of Urban Studies and Faculty of Environmental Studies (now the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change).

“I fondly remember Alex Murray, the ‘(Gentle)Man in Black’ with his fashion sense and aversion to colour, and his commitment to inquiry,” said Murray’s former colleague Lewis Molot, a York University professor emeritus and senior scholar. “He shall be missed.”

In his personal life, Murray loved the outdoors, cooking and welcoming friends and family into his home. Conversely, his working hours were spent trying to solve many of society’s biggest problems, from homelessness to food insecurity. He generously donated his time, skill and experience to philanthropic causes close to his heart, taking on leadership roles within the Toronto Chapter of the Community Planning Association of Canada, the National Housing Subcommittee of the Canadian Council on Social Development, Grey County’s Grey Association for Better Planning, the Canadian Council on Human Resources in Environmental Industries and the Toronto Food Policy Council.

In recognition of the late professor’s many hours of volunteer service and four decades of contributions to the South Rosedale Residents’ Association, the park across the street from Murray’s Rosedale house, where he and his wife lived since 1963, was renamed the Alex Murray Parkette in 2010 – a meaningful tribute from the City of Toronto that will symbolize his legacy for years to come.

A celebration of Murray’s life will be held in the spring.

Passings: Johanna H. Stuckey


York University Professor Emerita Johanna Heather Stuckey, a beloved educator and award-winning author, passed away on Feb. 15 at the age of 90.

Johanna H. Stuckey
Johanna H. Stuckey

Born in Gananoque, Ont., Stuckey received her BA in English language and literature and her MA in English from the University of Toronto, followed by her PhD in English from Yale University. In 1964, she became one one of the first women hired at York and the first faculty member in the Humanities Division, later earning her membership in the York University Founders Honour Society for her contributions to the University’s early development.

Her original intention was to stay at York for one year, to be involved in the exciting task of setting up the new University, but she came to love York and the rewarding work she was involved in, and ended up staying until her retirement in 2000.

Her students were glad she did.

“In 1983, as an undergraduate student, I had the good fortune to take a course with Professor Johanna H. Stuckey. This course was truly life-changing and career defining,” said Andrea O’Reilly, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies and co-ordinator of York’s Bridging Program for Women. “Her course gave rise to my passion for Goddess Studies that I have researched and taught over the last 30-plus years. I have returned time and time again to Professor Stuckey’s teaching, and her wisdom continues to inform and inspire my Goddess Studies scholarship.”

Stuckey served in a variety of administrative positions during her time at York: as acting master of Founders College (1972-73), Chair of the Senate Task Force on the Status of Women (1972-75), vice-chair of the York University Faculty Association (1973-74), Chair of the Division of Humanities (1974-79), advisor to the president on the status of women (1981-85) and co-ordinator of the Women’s Studies Program (1986-89).

She also contributed to the York community in many philanthropic ways, as a founding member of York’s White Rose Legacy Circle – a society of more than 220 living donors who have made a future gift to the University – and by supportiung the Johanna H. Stuckey Graduate Bursary in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies; the Enrica Jemma Glickman Award and the Nellie Langford Rowell Library.

Stuckey’s research interests included cultural studies, history, feminist theology, women and religion, and especially ancient near eastern goddesses, and she published widely in numerous book chapters and journal articles. A February 2021 YFile story announced the release of what would be her last book, A Handbook of Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Near East: Three Thousand Deities of Anatolia, Syria, Israel, Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, and Elam (Eisenbrauns Press, 2021), co-written in her late 80s with the late University of Toronto Professor Douglas R. Frayne and earning them the 2022 Prose Award from the Association of American Publishers.

The late professor emerita received numerous awards for her accomplishments in teaching and research over the course of her career, but arguably her greatest achievement was the lasting impact she had on her students.

“Her lectures read like stories, and I was always enchanted by her words,” said Sheila Cavanagh, a professor in York’s Department of Sociology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who took a course taught by Stuckey in the late ’80s. “Her feminist analysis and critique was always developed in a thoughtful and magical way. She had us read about Adam and Eve and said something like this: ‘All women must eat from the tree of forbidden knowledge if we are to survive and thrive.’

“I cannot think of another, better quote, to summarize her incredible contributions to knowledge and feminist studies at York University,” she said.

Passings: Lillian Lerman

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York University Professor Emerita Lillian Lerman, a former undergraduate program director of the Division of Social Science in the Faculty of Arts (now the Department of Social Science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies), passed away on Jan. 26.

A longtime and beloved member of the York University community, Lerman was a lecturer and academic leader who had the unique ability to bring people together in one of the most expansive areas of the University. Beyond her academic and administrative excellence, she was a trusted mentor and friend to many students, professors and staff.

After her retirement in 1991, the Lillian Lerman Book Prize – a $100 award for the most outstanding student essay in a 1000-level social science course – was established in her honour to recognize her dedication and contribution to undergraduate teaching.

Lerman will be deeply missed by a host of family, friends and colleagues.

Passings: Pat Rogers


Pat Rogers, a former York University faculty member, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 78, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Pat Rogers
Pat Rogers

Known to many as “Dr. Pat Rogers,” a title she would often roll her eyes at, she had a remarkable academic career that spanned several institutions and many roles.

Born just after the war, in Woking, England, to a Scottish mother and a Welsh father, Rogers spent her early years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, followed by Cardiff, Wales, before embarking on a mathematics degree at the University of Oxford – and being one of few women in her class of ’65.

While pursuing her PhD at the London School of Economics, she taught at North London Polytechnic, Goldsmiths’ College and the University of London’s Bedford College, and then relocated to Canada to become a faculty member in mathematics and education at York University in Toronto.

After being tenured as a full-time professor at York, Rogers became the founding director of the Centre of the Support of Teaching, and her legacy in that role remains in the form of a plaque in Vari Hall’s Seminar Room 3003. In keeping with what her former colleagues describe as her boisterous teaching style that demanded chairs and tables be moveable to encourage discussion, the plaque honouring her is the only thing in the room that is bolted down.

Rogers left York in 2000 to pursue two terms as dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, where she helped develop community-focused programs and where she was consistently energized by a group of academics who remained her good friends. She ended her career as associate vice-president of teaching and learning at Wilfrid Laurier University.

During her career, Rogers was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship, an award she helped establish as president of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. She was also the first Canadian and the first woman to be a appointed as the annual Pólya Lecturer for the Mathematical Association of America.

Diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2021, Rogers continuously impressed her family, friends, and many health practitioners with the tenacious and spirited way she battled it – the same tenacity and spirit that made its mark at York University and beyond.

Passings: Judith Cohen

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Judith Loeb Cohen, a close and influential friend of York University, has passed away at the age of 80.

Judith Cohen, along with her husband, Marshall Cohen, were once recognized by The York University Magazine as the University’s “cheerleaders in chief” and for good reason – for over two decades she was a friend, frequent board member, event Chair, donor and more.

Judith Cohen
Judith Cohen

Cohen was introduced to York through her husband, who held the position of Chair of the York University Board of Governors for a decade. She quickly fell in love with the University. “York is such a treasure,” she said in a 2009 profile in The York University Magazine.

She and her husband created the Judith and Marshall Cohen Leadership Award for First Generation Students, which is granted to full-time, undergraduate students entering their second year who were the first members of their immediate family to pursue post-secondary education and demonstrated financial need. She also served on the Schulich School of Business non-profit advisory committee and chaired the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

A member of the family that founded the Loeb supermarket chain – acquired by Metro in 1999 – Cohen was not just a cheerleader for York. She was a champion of the arts, becoming the first woman to head a major arts organization in Canada, when she led the board of the National Ballet of Canada as president from 1987 to 1990.

She served as the founding Chair of the Invest in Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to strengthening parents’ knowledge and skills as they navigate raising their children. Through the foundation, she launched the annual Battle of the Brains gala fundraising event, which gathers funds to provide learning opportunities to children and continues to this day as one of the largest fundraisers for numerous charitable organizations.

She was board Chair of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada for many years and founded the annual Teddy Bear Affair fundraiser on its behalf, which supports families, children and youth whose lives have been involved in the child welfare system.

Other positions she held include serving as a governor for the St. Michael’s Foundation Council and the Mount Sinai Hospital Board. She was also a recipient of the Peter F. Drucker Award recognizing Canadian non-profit innovation.

In her magazine profile, Cohen said of the University, “It’s a very, very exciting place full of talented people.” She was, undoubtedly, one of them.

Memorial donations may be made in her name to the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.