Remembering the Life of Bill Davis

If you study education in Ontario, you will hear the name Bill Davis everywhere. Here in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education we have an endowed research chair focused on Community College Research – the William G. Davis Research Chair. Many researchers gravitate naturally to studies on universities and this Chair position has ensured a strong body of scholarship on Ontario’s colleges.

Our department is just one grain of sand in Bill Davis’ legacy of empowering education.  He was the education minister from 1962 to 1971 and under his initiative four new universities were started (Laurentian, Trent, York and Brock).  He was also a champion for the Francophone board, which has benefited my family immensely.  And our own faculty of education – the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) was started during his leadership with an exclusive focus on research rather than teacher training.

Yesterday he passed away.  As I read tributes to his life this morning, I was particularly moved by Mayor Patrick Brown’s tribute. Mayor Brown recounts a time when the retired Bill Davis called him on the phone and encouraged him to be less partisan. I re-read that paragraph again. A strong leader, who had clear opinions and advocated for education but understood the dangers of partisan politics. After a year of social and political divisions, I am so thankful for the legacy of Premier Bill Davis and his commitment to work across party lines to benefit all Ontarians.  May we do likewise.

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