Passings: Arthur Forer

A field of flowers at sunset

Arthur Forer, a professor emeritus in York University’s Department of Biology, who specialized in molecular research, passed away on June 6.

Forer joined the Department of Biology in 1972, after time spent at several prestigious post-secondary institutions such as the Carlsberg Foundation Biological Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark; the University of Cambridge in England; Duke University in North Carolina; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his PhD at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire under the supervision of Shinya Inoue, a pioneer in microscopy and cell imaging. 

Arthur Forer
Arthur Forer

Forer spent his career studying how chromosomes move during cell division, and was one of the first cell biologists to use ultraviolet micro-irradiation techniques in that pursuit. His work in the field was something he looked to advance even until recently. “Forer continued doing research in his lab until he passed away,” said Robert Tsushima, Chair of the Department of Biology. “In fact, he was excited about renewing his NSERC [Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council] grant later this year and mentoring a cohort of new scientists.”

His passion for his work, and teaching, was something readily felt by others. “Art was a wonderful supervisor and brilliant microscopist,” said Professor Paula Wilson, a former doctoral student of Forer’s. “What he most enjoyed was working with living cells at the microscope and ‘talking science.’ It was a privilege to be in his lab.”

Forer was also a strong advocate of social justice. He attended Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., championed civil rights and equality, stressed the importance of protecting the environment, and advocated for equality and equity women in science. He spent more than five decades supervising and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, almost all of whom were women.

In recognition of his work, he was inducted as a member of the American Society for Cell Biology and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Beyond academics, Forer loved hiking with his longtime friend Professor Emeritus Ronald Pearlman and was an avid cyclist who routinely biked – into the 89th year of his life. He was also a dedicated musician involved with many musical groups.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a musical charity.

Passings: Robert Simmons


Robert E. Simmons, a former York University professor and Chair of the English department, passed away on May 19 at the age of 87.

Robert Simmons
Robert Simmons

Simmons joined York U in 1966 as a professor of English at the then newly formed Glendon College. He did so after obtaining his master’s of philosophy degree from the University of Toronto, an experience that included classes with renowned philosopher Marshall McLuhan and literary critic Northrop Frye, which intensified his lifelong love of literature, learning and writing.

During his time at York U – where he remained until his retirement in 2000 – Simmons taught English literature, linguistics and creative writing. He also co-authored the linguistics textbook The Language of Literature and the geography textbook Urban Canada.

Being a longtime fan of William Blake – whose poetry and vision of the human condition deeply affected Simmons and influenced his own writing and creative work – led Simmons to publish a book of literary criticism called A New Interpretation of Blake’s Minor Prophecies.

Even after his time in academia, Simmons continued to pursue teaching and literature, offering weekly creative writing classes at his local library in Chesley, Ont., and editing local authors’ works.

A celebration of life will be held on Aug. 13 in Guelph, Ont., at the Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home’s Dublin Chapel. All are welcome to attend. RSVP to Barb Simmons at

Donations in the late professor’s memory can be made to Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington.

Passings: Natasa Bajin

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Natasa Bajin, a retired School of Kinesiology & Health Science faculty member and York University gymnastics coach, passed away on May 13.

Natasa Bajin

A Serbian-Yugoslavian gymnast, Bajin came to York in the early 1970s as one of the world’s best in her field, with an illustrious career that included 13 first-place finishes as the national senior champion of the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, and 14 championships in the province of Serbia. Between 1965 and 1974, she also she competed in two Olympic Games, three world championships and four European championships.

At York, Bajin began serving as the head women’s gymnastics coach in 1974 and remained in the role for nearly 20 years. During her tenure, the team she coached enjoyed great success, earning 12 Ontario Women’s Interuniversity Athletic Association gold medals and four Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union national champions. In recognition of her accomplishment, she would go on to be inducted into York University’s Sport Hall of Fame in 2001. She was also a tenured faculty member who taught fitness and gymnastics in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science.

Bajin’s influence spread beyond York as well, as she was involved in Gymnastics Ontario as a judge at the highest level of qualification, and she spent many days visiting schools to assist teachers in running after-school gymnastics programs. 

Over the course of her 50-year career, she trained thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to teach gymnastics themselves in schools across Ontario – in the process, ensuring Bajin’s influence will continue to resonate in a field she so excelled in.

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

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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

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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.