YURA walk to fundraise for student food support

Image shows people wearing running shoes

On Oct. 3, members of the York University Retirees’ Association (YURA) will walk five kilometres through the University’s Keele Campus to raise funds for the York Federation of Students (YFS) Food Support Centre, more commonly known as the student food bank on campus.

Earlier this year, the YURA executive committee voted unanimously to assist the YFS Food Support Centre, as one in four students at York struggles to afford food, according to a Campus Well-Being Survey conducted during the past winter term. It also stated more than 2,500 students were relying on the YFS Food Support Centre.

The fundraising walk on Oct. 3 will take place at 1 p.m., starting at the Lorna Marsden Honour Court (north of the Schulich School of Business building, east of the York University subway station), the new location of the YURA office. The route through the Keele Campus was developed with Recreation York, and all members of the University community – faculty, staff and students – are welcome to participate in all or part of the approximately one-hour walk, to show their support for this important cause.

To date, YURA’s Charity Challenge team has already raised more than $18,000 in sponsor donations from friends, family, and former York colleagues and co-workers. YURA welcomes further contributions from faculty, staff and others who are also concerned about student food insecurity at the University. To sponsor the YURA team or any of its members, tax-deductible online donations can be made here: raceroster.com/events/2023/65909/2023-tcs-toronto-waterfront-marathon/pledge/team/528606.

For further assistance, contact the YURA office at yura@yorku.ca or call 416-736-2100 ext. 70664. 

The YURA team consists of eight members registered officially as fundraisers and a larger contingent of York retirees who wish to support this cause. 

This is the fifth year that YURA is taking part in the Charity Challenge. In previous years, YURA’s participation helped raise sufficient funds to endow in perpetuity three graduate student awards given annually at York University.

The upcoming YURA fundraising walk is being held in conjunction with the Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge, which offers the option of a “virtual” Charity Challenge, allowing registrants to do the five kilometres on their own or with others.

Retirees to walk for graduate student awards

Image shows people wearing running shoes

For the fourth straight year, the York University Retirees’ Association (YURA) will participate in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge this fall to raise funds for graduate student awards at the University. Tata Consultancy Services is the new lead sponsor for the 2022 event, taking over from Scotiabank.  

YURA members at the 2020 walk in Toronto's High Park
YURA members at the 2020 walk in Toronto’s High Park
Members of the 2019 YURA team at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, raising money for York Graduate Student Awards
Members of the 2019 YURA team at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, raising money for York Graduate Student Awards

A number of YURA members will take part in the 5 km walk in October and are seeking sponsor donations from former colleagues, co-workers, family and friends to help achieve the $115,000 needed to endow the three awards that YURA provides each year to deserving graduate students.  To date, more than $90,000 has been raised with $60,000 of the funds being generated by participants in the Charity Challenge walk/run in the last three years.

York community members are invited support this worthy cause by sponsoring the YURA team or any of its members with an online donation at https://tinyurl.com/msv7v69c.

Tax deductible receipts will be issued by the University for sponsor donations.

YURA is committed to help make getting an education possible for deserving students who struggle financially.  Many of the award recipients are changemakers who go on to accomplish great things.  For more information about the YURA sponsored awards given annually, visit: https://www.yorku.ca/yura/events-and-programs/awards-bursaries-and-donations/.

Passings: University Professor Emeritus Paul Wilkinson

A candle

Tribute written by Professor Emeritus Ted Spence with University Professor Emeritus Bill Found and Anita McBride

Paul Wilkinson
Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson, University Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, passed away on Dec. 19, 2021 at Sunnybrook Hospital ending a three-week stay following emergency surgery. He was predeceased by his wife Dorothy, and is survived by his two children, Christopher and Melanie, and four grandchildren.

Paul graduated in 1970 with an Honours BA magna cum laude in Geography from York University. He then went on to graduate in 1971 with his MA, and in 1974 with his PhD, both in Geography from the University of Toronto.

He was appointed as a lecturer in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York in 1973 while he was completing his PhD. In 1974, he was promoted to assistant professor, in 1977 promoted to associate professor and in 1990 to professor. In 2014, he was recognized with the title of University Professor Emeritus. Paul retired in 2014 but remained an active participant in University affairs and in his research and professional work until his death.

Throughout his more than 47-year association with York University, Paul compiled an outstanding record in teaching and graduate supervision, in research and professional activities, and in service to the University. His contributions were exceptional in all areas. In addition to his appointment in the Faculty of Environmental Studies and more recently in the new Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, Paul was also an active member of the graduate program in geography. At various times in his career he held visiting appointments at universities in California, France, Kenya and Indonesia.

Paul was an exceptional teacher and graduate-level supervisor. He supervised nine environmental studies PhD dissertations and more than 90 masters theses, major papers or major projects. He also supervised a number of masters students in geography and served as a member of numerous supervisory and examination committees across several programs at York and at other universities. He was always in demand as a graduate supervisor. Paul taught a wide range of courses in the environmental studies graduate program and as well in the undergraduate program after it was established in 1992.

In research and professional activities, Paul was an extremely successful and recognized scholar in his field. His work was broadly based, but focused on resource and environmental management, recreation and tourism planning and management, and protected area management. He was the author, co-author or editor of more than 160 works, including 22 books or monographs, 37 book chapters, 35 papers in refereed journals, 16 papers in refereed conference proceedings and more than 50 other scholarly and professional reports. His CV also documents more than 85 conference papers between 1972 and 2019.

Paul held a large number of individual research and travel grants over the years. Much of his work was as a member of research and project teams or in partnership with his students.  Most recently he was working as part of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership with a focus on Canadian parks and protected areas. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Paul was an active participant in the Faculty’s major CIDA-funded international partnership projects in Kenya and Indonesia. In the 1980s, Paul also worked with several colleagues on a number of CIDA-funded projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Building on his research Paul took on significant roles outside of York in professional organizations and government initiatives. From 1990 until 2007, he served on the board of directors of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies and served as the vice-president and then president of that association from 1998 until 2001. From 1998 until 2000, he was appointed by the federal Department of Canadian Heritage as a member of the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks. This appointment included the opportunity for Paul to visit all of Canada’s national parks. In 2013 he was appointed a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, a branch of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In addition to Paul’s dedication to his teaching, students, research and professional activities, he compiled an exceptional record of service contributions within York. In environmental studies, he served as assistant dean in the late 1970s and as associate dean for nine years. At various times he served on all the major committees in the Faculty in various director and coordinator roles, and as the graduate program director and undergraduate program director. He had a major role in developing the successful proposals for the doctoral and undergraduate programs in environmental studies, both of which received Senate approval in the early 1990s.

Paul also made significant contributions in the governance of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Senate and the University’s Board of Governors. Except during his sabbatical leaves, Paul was a member of Senate from 1976 to his retirement. He served on many Senate committees, including multiple terms on both the Senate Executive Committee and on the Senate Academic Policy and Planning Committee. From 1994 to 1996, he served as Senate Vice-Chair and then as Senate Chair. On two occasions, in 1996 and again in 2011, he was elected as the Senate representative to the University’s Board of Governors.

Paul was a cheerful colleague and was known for his outstanding sense of humour and his enthusiastic support for good ideas. He was a great team player and an outstanding member of the York community throughout his career. He was a most deserving recipient of his appointment as University Professor Emeritus. He will be missed by his extensive network of former students and colleagues.

As per Paul’s wishes, for those wishing to make a donation in his memory should give to the Wilkinson Family Graduate Award in Environmental Studies at York University. This award was established by the Wilkinson Family several years ago and is very dear to their hearts.

Emeritus doesn’t translate to retired for ecological economist

Peter Victor

Retirement is not slowing growth for Professor Emeritus Peter Victor; in fact, the ecological economist who is best known for his influential book Managing Without Growth, is busier than ever with a new book on economist Herman Daly and an active research agenda.

By Elaine Smith

Peter Victor may have stepped down from his academic responsibilities at York University, but the professor emeritus and former dean of the Faculty of the Environmental Studies (now Environmental and Urban Change, or EUC) is still busy with writing and research. Late November 2021 saw him launching his latest book, Herman Daly’s Economics for a Full World: His Life and Ideas (Routledge, 2022), and he regularly publishes research papers with colleague Tim Jackson, director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom.

Homage to an innovator

His new book grows out of the great respect he has for his subject as an innovator in economics. Daly, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, is known for establishing ecological economics – Victor’s field of study – as a discipline, although one that had to fight for recognition, because, unlike most other strains of economics, it doesn’t mandate growth. In essence, it is a stream of economic thought that emphasizes the value of natural capital, recognizing the limits of natural resources. Proponents believe that economic prosperity can be gained through improving the quality of life, rather than just pure market growth.

Peter Victor
Peter Victor

“I knew Daly’s work quite well,” says Victor. “I kept telling my wife that someone should write a biography of Herman Daly, given his influence on economics, and she said, ‘You should do it.’ I have learned over the years that it’s worth listening to her suggestions. I contacted Herman and he agreed, as long as I placed the emphasis on his ideas and debates about economics.”

Before putting pen to paper, Victor spent a week interviewing Daly at his home in Virginia and another 18 months going through the economics literature to review Daly’s work and what others had to say about it. Finally, he spent the spring and summer of 2020 “writing the biography sitting on my front porch.”

“Ecological economists question how economies can keep growing if the world is not,” says Victor. “The uptake of our theories has been disappointingly slow. Challenging economic growth doesn’t make you popular with mainstream economists. Most of the teaching and research in this field is done outside economics departments – at York’s EUC, for example.

“One of the reasons I wrote the Daly biography is to get people engaged with the ideas and a different world view. It’s exciting stuff.”

Much of Victor’s research revolves around economic modelling, which isn’t easily understood by the layperson. However, the Daly biography is different.

“Vibrant, timely and thoroughly accessible, Peter Victor’s elegant new biography charts the life and work of a genuine radical,” notes CUSP’s Jackson in praising the work. “Daly’s steady-state economics marked a turning point in economic thinking with revolutionary implications. From polio survivor to World Bank advisor, Victor paints a sympathetic and long overdue portrait of an extraordinary man with extraordinary ideas.”

Slow growth no disaster

It’s not Victor’s first foray into authoring a book, although it is his first biography. He is also well known for his seminal work in ecological economics, Managing Without Growth: Slow by Design, not Disaster, which he has recently updated for a second edition. It grew out of a series of discussions he had with his former PhD supervisor about economic growth. If endless economic growth is infeasible and, in advanced economies, also undesirable, what are the possibilities for living well without relying on growth?

Cover of Peter Victor's book on Herman Daly, used with permission
Cover of Peter Victor’s book on Herman Daly

“You can’t produce unless you take energy and materials from nature and create waste,” says Victor. “If we are going to reduce our impact in physical terms, economies cannot grow without limit despite the fact that growth of the economy is usually measured in terms of money. However, even without growth, inequality can be reduced, high levels of employment can be maintained, and technology can improve, allowing people to work less and live better.  

“I wrote the book because human impacts on the planet have become excessive, and I used a lot of data, so it wasn’t just about abstract ideas. I built a simulation of the Canadian economy so people could explore their own scenarios. I wrote the book because it was interesting. However, I had no idea what would come of the book.”

Serendipitously, it was released just as the 2008 recession struck and, suddenly, Victor was invited to speak about his ideas all over the globe. “Otherwise, it might have been obscure,” he said.

For someone whose varied career has seen him successfully as a consultant, an assistant deputy minister, an educational administrator and a professor, perhaps it’s not surprising to find that whatever endeavour Victor undertakes, acclaim and knowledge follow. Especially with the shadow of climate change becoming larger each day, don’t expect him to stop contributing to our understanding of the natural world.

Retirees give back to York U

the YURA team
YURA members at the 2020 walk in Toronto’s High Park

The York University Retirees’ Association continued its work to raise funds for graduate student awards. Recently, members took part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge.

For the third straight year, the York University Retirees’ Association (YURA) participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge to raise funds for graduate student awards at the University. With the help of York’s Advancement Division, YURA applied and was approved as an eligible charity in the program.

For the 2021 Charity Challenge, YURA’s 11 registered participants were given the option of running or walking a minimum of five kilometres on their own (e.g. in their own neighbourhood) as a virtual charity challenge; or participating in one of two five-kilometre walk/run events organized by YURA – one held at Toronto’s High Park on Oct. 5 and the other on the Tom Taylor Trail in Newmarket, Ont., on Oct. 13. 

Members of the YURA team get ready to participate in the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon Charity Challenge
Members of the YURA team get ready to participate in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge

Participants registered for the Charity Challenge through a fundraising page generated by Race Roster, an online app, and then sought sponsorships from former colleagues and co-workers, family and friends. York University issued charitable tax receipts for sponsor donations. To date, this year’s YURA team has raised $23,700 for the graduate student awards. 

YURA Co-President Ian Greene organized this year’s team entry. Fundraising participants were retirees Charmaine Courtis, Steve Dranitsaris, John Lennox, Fran Wilkinson, Peter Victor, David Dimick, Marla Chodak, Agnes Fraser, Donna Smith and Gwyn Buck, as well as Maggie Quirt, a professor in the Department of Equity Studies in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who took an enthusiastic interest in this cause.

Until Nov. 1, there is still time for York community members to sponsor the YURA team or one of the individual participants. Tax deductible donations can be made online at the group’s Race Roster page.

YURA is committed to help make getting an education possible for deserving students who struggle financially. YURA’s goal is to raise enough money for an endowed fund to support in perpetuity the three YURA Graduate Student Awards given annually. To date, almost $90,000 has been raised toward the $115,000 goal for this endowment, with $60,000 of the funds raised generated by participants in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge in the past three years.

Passings: Professor Emeritus Ian Sowton

A candle

The following is a memorial tribute for Professor Emeritus Ian Sowton, a long-serving faculty member at York University, poet and prolific author. The tribute was written by Sowton’s colleague, Professor Emeritus Ray Ellenwood:

Ian Sowton. Image: Holy Trinity, 2003
Ian Sowton. Image: Holy Trinity Church, 2003

A message from a friend recently informed me of the death of Ian Sowton (Feb. 23, 1929 to Jan. 23, 2021), after a fall and head injury. It came with a recollection of Ian and Fran housing a student couple with a newborn child when the Sowtons themselves were a young couple with their own children at the University of Alberta in the 1960s. John Unrau, another U. of A. graduate who ended up at York, had his own story of Sowton generosity. (See also the website of Holy Trinity Church near the Eaton Centre.) I would attribute Ian’s world view to that fact that he was one of those “missionary brats” who spent their early years with their parents in places like China. There were several at York in the early years, including Stephen Endicott.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Ian taught for a number of years in Edmonton before being hired to Chair the nascent English department at Atkinson College circa 1970. I had enjoyed auditing his course on renaissance poetry at U. of A. and was happy to be his colleague for almost 30 years after I came to York. While publishing a book and articles on Spencer and 16th-century poetics, Ian was particularly active in the life of the College and the University: Chair of his department, director of the Graduate Program in English, master of a college, participant on an endless list of committees and task forces – always ready to help, even after his retirement, when he was on the executive of the Association of Retired Faculty and Librarians of York (ARFL).

Toward the end of his academic career, Ian became interested in feminist writers and literary theory, making them an important part of his courses. One result was that, again post-retirement, he was willing to help prepare a festschrift for an eminent feminist scholar at York: Transacting Memory: Essays in Honour of Barbara Godard (2013).

Always publishing his poetry here and there, over the years, Ian got serious after retirement, bringing out five books: Intricate Armada (2005), Imagining Sisyphus Happy (2006), Affordable Wonders (2011), which includes a number of commemorations of deceased York colleagues, The Stink of Experience (2013), and Waking in Harbour One Day (2020), a collection published a few months before his death. Most of the books were blatantly and proudly self-published and many of the poems were celebrations of the woman he had loved for so many years (in complete defiance, I would point out, of the ancient Courtly Love tradition). But for one of the last poems in Waking in Harbour, I accused him of getting close to the bone. Here is the first stanza of “Song of Passage”:

As it rejoins the primal surge

of forever dancing elements

my body shall learn the steps

for meadow grass and flowers

under sun and gracious showers.

Let’s leave it there.

Ray Ellenwood

York retirees raise more than $24,000 for graduate student awards

retirees on the Scotiabank run
retirees on the Scotiabank run

During October, 18 members of the York University Retirees’ Association (YURA) and one University staff member participated in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge to raise funds to help endow the three Graduate Student Awards that YURA funds annually.

Eight YURA members gathered at High Park on October 6th to complete a 5 km walk/run -- Other YURA participants completed their 5 km, 10 km, half marathon or full marathon on their own in their respective home neighbourhood.
Eight YURA members gathered at High Park on Oct. 6 to complete a 5 km walk/run. Other YURA participants completed their 5 km, 10 km, half marathon or full marathon on their own in their respective home neighbourhood.

The Scotiabank Charity Challenge – in previous years, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Charity Marathon – was held this year as a virtual event. With the help of York’s Advancement Office, YURA applied and was approved as an eligible charity.

Participants registered for the event through a fundraising page generated by Race Roster, an online app; sought sponsorships from former colleagues and co-workers, family and friends; and completed their run or walk (5 km, 10 km, half marathon, full marathon) between Oct. 1 and 31 anywhere.

As of Nov. 12, a total of $24,105 has been raised, surpassing the $20,000 goal which YURA had set for the event. Combined with funds previously raised or contributed by York’s retirees, more than $59,000 of the $115,000 needed to endow the three Graduate Student Awards has been secured. Additional (tax deductible) donations to sponsor the YURA team can still be made using Race Roster until Nov. 23 at: https://raceroster.com/events/2020/27138/2020-scotiabank-toronto-waterfront-marathon/fundraising-organization/24199.

Thanks to organizers, Ian Greene, Peter Victor and John Wilson. Congratulations to all of the fundraising participants: Charmaine Courtis, Steve Dranitsaris, John Lennox, Peter Victor, Fran Wilkinson, Natasa Bajin, John Miller, Wendy Chan Tang, David Dimick, Liz Dolan, Ed Lee-Ruff, Donna Smith, Fazyah Mohammed, Pat Murray, Sheelagh Atkinson, Tony Turrittin, David Leyton-Brown, Jane Turrittin and Marisa Barlas of York’s Advancement Office.

In pursuit of fully endowing these Graduate Awards, YURA is aiming to double its number of participants in next year’s Scotiabank Charity Challenge.

Passings: Faculty of Science Professor Emeritus Michael Boyer

Michael Boyer

Faculty of Science Professor Emeritus Michael Boyer died Nov. 13 at the Sunnybrook Veteran’s Centre at the age of 94.

Prof. Boyer was loved and respected by his colleagues, students and graduates. Boyer is remembered for his devotion to the natural world and trees.

During his early years, Prof. Boyer served as a gunner in the 4th Field Regiment in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. After his years of service, Prof. Boyer returned to school to study botany at Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College. He then attended Iowa State University and studied forest pathology. After graduation, he worked in Quebec with the Federal Department of Forestry. Prof. Boyer joined York University in the 1960s as one of the first professors of biology. Prof. Boyer was a botanist and plant pathologist. He retired from York University at age 65.

“Professor Boyer, or Dr. B as we called him, was one of the nicest people you could ever meet and someone to look up to,” said Michael Belanger, who was Boyer’s last graduate student (MSc ’90) and is now a Biology Lab Technician in the Department of Biology at York University. “He had a great influence on my life and was a great mentor. He taught me that you should give to others what you learn, share your knowledge with the world.”

From a 1999 news York University Gazette story, this image shows Professor Emeritus (biology) Michael Boyer, Vice-President (University Advancement) Gary J. Smith and Dean of Pure & Applied Science Robert Prince have the honour of planting trees stemming from Sir Isaac Newton’s family estate

A woodlot on York University’s Keele Campus was named The Michael G. Boyer Woodlot in recognition of his years of service to the University and for his tireless efforts to enhance the campus environment by conserving and expanding its woodlots.

Following the death of his wife Joan, Prof. Boyer moved to the Sunnybrook Veteran’s Centre. He was an active volunteer with the horticultural therapist at Sunnybrook in the K-Wing and Dorothy Macham Home Gardens.

Prof. Boyer is survived by his children Pamela, George and Richard and his grandchildren Chris, James, Emily, Charlotte and Michael.

A memorial service for Prof. Boyer will be held on Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow. The service will take place at St. Leonards Church, 25 Wanless Avenue in Toronto. All are welcome.

Passings: Yvonne Aziz (LLD [Hon.] ’85), retired executive officer to Presidents Murray Ross and H. Ian Macdonald

Yvonne Tempe Aziz (nee Salmon), former executive officer to York University’s first president Murray Ross and then to President Emeritus H. Ian Macdonald, died peacefully on Nov. 15 in Toronto in her 101st year.

Yvonne Tempe Aziz

A third-generation Australian, she was born in New South Wales on May 14, 1919. Raised and educated in Sydney, Australia, Yvonne was a gifted linguist, fluent in French and German, in addition to her native English. Her love of language prompted her travel to Europe at a young age and, in 1939, she left her native Australia first for England and then to France where she planned to study at the Sorbonne. The winds of the Second World War and the aggression of Germany saw her leave France for England, where she became a freelance translator for the British Foreign Office before immigrating to New York, NY, where she worked for British Security Coordination – the covert organization set up by the British Intelligence Service (MI6) on the authorization of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Following her marriage in 1944 to Abdul Aziz, a member of the Royal Indian Engineers, she relocated to India where she lived through the turbulent and often violent period of the country’s independence that resulted in its partitioning into the current nations of India and Pakistan. Her son, Julian, was born in New Delhi in 1946 and her daughter, Jane, in Karachi, Pakistan in 1949. Yvonne, her husband and daughter came to Canada in 1957 to settle in Toronto, and were later joined by their son in 1959.

In Toronto, Yvonne worked for the Canadian Association of Adult Education and soon became the editor of the association’s journal, Continuous Learning. In 1964, she joined the staff of York University, moving to the Office of the President, where she distinguished herself, not only as an effective, competent and outstanding administrator, but as a woman of deep social conscience and a tireless champion of her gender. Over the years of her service to York University through to her retirement, Yvonne’s work ethic, uncompromising integrity, quiet dignity, tact, charm and dedication all combined to see her become one of the most beloved and respected members of the York University community.

In 1985, York University honored her with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of her distinguished career of service as an administrator for the University, respected colleague and valued friend. Through all, she was a devoted wife, a wise and loving mother, and a proud and adoring great/grandmother. Yvonne was an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life for a full century across four continents during some of the most tempestuous and challenging times in modern history.

The memory that she lived her life with grace and courage will endure. Friends are welcome to pay their respects to Yvonne on Monday, Nov. 25, at St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church at 19 Don Ridge Drive, Toronto. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. followed by a reception at the church.

If desired, and in lieu of flowers, a donation in her memory may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, 250 Dundas Street West, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2Z5.

Yvonne was predeceased by her beloved husband Abdul, who died in 2003. They were married for nearly 60 years. She was the loving and dedicated mother of Jane Griffiths of Markham and Julian Aziz (Jennifer Dakin) of Oakville. Yvonne was also the devoted and cherished grandmother of Lesley Griffiths (Andrew), Michael Griffiths, Courtney Reistetter, Megan Kempe (Somers), Ryan Folk (Jay) and Connolly Aziz, and affectionately known as “Great Grammy” to all 10 of her adoring great-grandchildren.

Passings: Renaissance scientist Huw Owen Pritchard

Distinguished Research Professor at York University’s Faculty of Science, Huw Owen Pritchard, died peacefully on Aug. 9 at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. A long-serving member of the Department of Chemistry, he began his career at York in 1965 and retired in 1998.

Huw Owen Pritchard
Huw Owen Pritchard

Prof. Pritchard was an original member and former Chair of the department, and supervised the first PhD in chemistry, although it was in the physics graduate program. His main research interest was in Experimental and Theoretical Reaction Kinetics.

His colleagues remember him as “one of a kind, a renaissance scientist” and a “highly productive and well-respected researcher.” He was also one of the first four Distinguished Research Professors (1983) at York.

“Personally, I remember his lab for two things. The diesel engine he was trying to run on benzyl peroxide, and his experiments on the isomerization of methyl isocyanide,” said Don Hastie, associate dean of faculty.

René Fournier, Chair of the Department of Chemistry, said, “He could talk with personal knowledge about a wide range of topics, including about the beginnings of electronic digital scientific computing in Manchester in the early 1950s, the first MO calculations on aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as the theories of valence, electronegativity, and unimolecular reactions.”

His knowledge also extended to the effect of blackbody radiation on vibrational relaxation, numerical instability and chaos in molecular simulations, diesel fuel ignition, and the first computers connected to the internet at York.

Huw Owen Pritchard teaching a class early in his career

“He took part in, witnessed, or researched, those things himself,” said Fournier. “When I joined in 1996, his research program had what was then a rare, maybe unique, combination of gas phase kinetics experiments, electronic structure calculations and molecular dynamics simulations.”

The paper, Eliminating Symmetry Problems in Electronegativity Equalization and Correcting Self-Interaction Errors in Conceptual DFT, in the Journal of Computational Chemistry by László von Szentpály is dedicated to Prof. Pritchard “the pioneer of the charge dependent electronegativity concept.”

Before his time at York, Prof. Pritchard studied in Michael Polanyi’s Chemistry Department in 1945 at Manchester University, receiving his PhD in 1951. The same year, he became an assistant lecturer in chemistry, and in 1954, he became a lecturer.

Born July 23, 1928 in Bangor, Wales, Prof. Pritchard was married to Margaret (Maggie) for 63 years, and the father to Karen (Sal) and David (Madeleine).

A private cremation took place. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Toronto General Hospital.