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OISE friend and champion of education William Waters passes away



The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education is saddened to hear about the passing of our good friend and champion of education, William Robert Waters.

Dr. Waters (BA '60, MBA '72, Hon LLD' 04), a tireless champion of education, made it his life's mission to help students overcome academic and economic barriers to education. The talented academic, visionary entrepreneur, and generous philanthropist passed away on July 28, at the age of 88.

Waters knew first-hand what it was like to struggle financially — and so, it was no surprise that he would direct the majority of his philanthropy towards breaking down barriers to education for others. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in his late 20s as a part-time mature student because economic hardships forbade him from pursuing full-time studies. Still, he prevailed — and he deeply believed in the transformative power of education.

In his life, Waters was known as a kind and compassionate soul. The story of a chance meeting in a restaurant is demonstrative of his extraordinary character: after falling into conversation with a restaurant server studying opera about her challenges and aspirations, Waters donated $2.5 million toward student financial aid at U of T's Faculty of Music. That student, Ariana Chris, went on to sing in leading operas worldwide and at the closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"The OISE community extends our deepest condolences to Bill's wife, Phyllis, his family, and friends," said Normand Labrie, Interim Dean of OISE.

"Driven by a deep desire to help others by breaking down societal inequities and barriers to education, Dr. Waters truly embodied the values of OISE. Through his contributions, he has changed the lives of many talented OISE teachers and, in turn, made a profound impact on education."

At OISE, the William Waters Graduate Awards in Teacher Education removed financial barriers to a world-class education for aspiring teachers, many of whom worked in urban settings. These awards also had a multi-generational impact — they ensured that future students taught by these OISE graduates would also receive an outstanding education that was boundless and unlimited in potential.

"In my interactions with Dr. Waters, he displayed the utmost levels of kindness and generosity," said Sim Kapoor, director of the Office of Advancement and External Relations at OISE. "He never lost sight of his mission to give students from all walks of life a chance to change their lives with education, and this has led to funding and programming that stand out to this day.

"I know Dr. Waters’ legacy will be with us for a long time, and I hope his life can be a lesson to others in that it continues OISE's mission to educate and address the most serious crises of our day," said Labrie.


In Memoriam: William Waters (1932-2021) 

William Waters' Obituary in the Globe and Mail