William Edwin Beckel

11 April, 192615 October, 2018

William BECKEL April 11, 1926 - October 15, 2018

William BECKEL BECKEL, William Edwin, B.A., M.S., Ph.D. Died peacefully, at home at Maison Senior Living in West Vancouver, BC, October 15, 2018 at the age of 92. William lived a long, adventure-filled life. His journey as life-long learner, scientist, educator, leader, husband, father and grandfather influenced those who came to know him for his loving, generous nature, his profound curiosity and his wit. Predeceased by his brothers John and Robert, he is survived by his wife of 65 years, Dorothy, his son John (and his daughter-in-law Carol and granddaughter Molly) and three daughters: Margaret (son-in-law Stan), Julia and Millie.

William, a.k.a., Bill, was born April 11, 1926 in Kingston, Ontario. He was the son of Elmer Ernest Beckel of Oshawa, Ontario and Beatrice Mary (Driver) Beckel of Kingston, Ontario. His early years were spent in Branford, Ontario, where his father owned a Chevrolet Oldsmobile dealership. With the Great Depression of the 1930s, people stopped buying cars. William’s father paid all his debts and the family moved back to Kingston, his father finding work as Quartermaster at Collins Bay Institution “Preferred Class Penitentiary”. His mother, Beatrice, earned extra money in the summers for the family by operating a tea room from their home in Collins Bay with Bill and his brother Rob acting as servers. William’s education was extensive. He began his education at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute. From there, he attended Queen’s University, graduating in 1949 with a B.A. He gained his master’s degree at the State University of Iowa in 1953. Two years later, he received his PH.D from Cornell University.

William was a Research Scientist for the Defence Research Board, Ottawa and Department National Defence in Fort Churchill, Manitoba, from 1948-1955. It was here that he met his life partner and scientist, Dorothy. He then worked at the Canadian Department of Agriculture before becoming Assistant, then Associate, Professor at the University of Toronto from 1956-64. He was Full Professor and Dean at Scarborough College at the U of T from 1964-68, then Vice-President, University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, from 1968-72 and President, University of Lethbridge from 1972-79. William finished his career as President of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario from 1979-89. From there, he and his wife, Dorothy, retired in Vancouver B.C. Along the way Bill was a member of numerous scientific, professional and education societies and the author of over forty scientific and educational publications in juried national and international journals.

Dr. Beckel was a zoologist and an early proponent of the use of television as a teaching medium. In 1964 he became the first dean of the University of Toronto-affiliated Scarborough College, which led an experiment in teaching half the courses using TV- only lectures. At the University of Lethbridge as an approachable and interested President, he was often seen chatting with students in the concourse. There he oversaw the construction of the new campus and the implementation of Management Arts, Native American Studies, and the expanded Cooperative Education program. Under Dean Russell Leskiw, the Education program became one of the best in Canada. A highlight during Dr. Beckel’s presidency was the provincial government’s approval of the Centre for the Arts, a building that allowed for the creation of the U of L’s art collection.

Like many Ontario universities at the time, Carleton was in financial trouble when Dr. Beckel took the helm in 1979. That year it was running a .5-million deficit. He oversaw several controversial faculty buyouts, and in 1980, the school had to dip into academic scholarship funds to help cover its debts. Dr. Beckel’s efforts during the 1980’s eventually pulled Carleton out of the red and into a building period that resulted in a new student residence, a new library, a Life Sciences Research Building, an Art Gallery, a Social Sciences Research Building, a Day Care Centre and the beginning of a new engineering complex.

Unlike Carleton’s rival universities, most of whom were raising admissions standards to compete for better students, Dr. Beckel decided to keep Carleton open to high- school graduates with averages as low as 60 percent on the premise that "every student should have the right to fail”. The benefit of this philosophy was that first year enrolment increased bringing with it increased tuition revenue that more than offset the impact of a lower retention rate. This egalitarian philosophy combined with tough financial controls resulted in a strong financial position for the university and made it a "rare chance" university. For many students, Carleton offered a rare chance at a university education.

On July 1, 1989, he received an honorary degree of Legum Doctoris from Carleton. Previously that same year Dr. Beckel received an Honorary Degree from Ottawa University. In 1995 Dr. Beckel was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Lethbridge. William enthusiastically enjoyed his family, his friends, cooking, wine, cheese, music, hunting, and skiing.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Whistler Search and Rescue. Just go to and you will have the option to dedicate the donation to William Beckel should you choose. A Celebration of life will be held in at The View on Lonsdale in North Vancouver on November 24, 2018. 2121 Lonsdale Avenue North Vancouver, B.C. from 2:00 - 4:30 pm.

To send condolences please go to: memorial-funeral-services/3801


  • Celebration of Life

    Saturday, 24 November , 2018


William Edwin Beckel

have a memory or condolence to add?

Brian Greenwood

23 November 2018

Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of Dr. William (Bill) Beckel; unfortunately I only new him for short while, but have never forgotten his help and encouragement to me as a newly appointed junior faculty member at UTSC.
Professor Bill Beckel was my boss in the very first job I had after leaving the University of Bristol (U.K.) following my graduate work and arriving at UTSC (then known as Scarborough College). The College had only just opened on its new campus in Scarborough, with about 900 students when I arrived for my first year of university teaching! Although Dean Beckel was only at UTSC for a short while, he impressed everyone, both faculty and staff. He was a wonderful person and an excellent administrator. I recall a “running gag” we shared; as I would enter his office, without fail he would say “here comes the Irish Rover!”. I guess to him (and indeed to many Canadians at that time) my west country accent was most like an “Irish” accent!! Dean Beckel also ran everything administratively at that time; as a newly appointed geomorphologist, I needed a four-wheel drive vehicle for fieldwork (a Land Rover in fact). I remember simply walking into his office made my “pitch” and within minutes a positive decision was made and the purchasing agent was given instructions to go ahead with buying the vehicle. I will never forget this episode.

Gail Schmidt

23 November 2018

I worked with Dr. Beckel in the Electron Microscopy lab at U of T . When he introduced me to his graduate students he told them that they were replaceable and that I was not. At the time I did not fully appreciate the wisdom and support that he gave me that day. I left his lab and moved to Vancouver where I worked in the lab for MacMillan Bloedel Pulp and Paper in a very male dominated company, and I soon realized how astute and wise he had been. It may seem like a small thing but his example was strengthening to this, then, young person and no doubt countless others.
Now living in Victoria, I will be with you in spirit at the remembrance service for this wonderful man.

Sincerely Gail Schmidt

hart sernick

16 November 2018

to Dr. Beckel's family:

I was in Dr Beckel's first year Zoology class as part of the General Science program at U of T in 1961-62. Despite having relatively hazy memories of my first year classes, all those many years ago, I do remember that Dr. Beckel's lectures were extremely interesting---and I, for one, never missed one of his classes. Beyond his excellent weekly lectures, he always had a special Christmas lecture-- which was a real treat--and which I attended as long as he continued to teach at U of T. Even though our classes were quite large, i did get to know him reasonably well ---at least for a first year student---and he was most encouraging of my education efforts. A few year's later, I applied to the first year of the new MBA program at York University---and he wrote a wonderful reference that I always thought was one of the main reasons I was accepted in that program---since my marks from my undergraduate program were not the best! I followed his rising career from a distance and was not surprised at his success at Scarborough College, in Lethbridge and later in his career at Carleton. I have always felt that each student needs only one teacher or professor who thinks they are special and provides the encouragement necessary for success---for me, Dr Beckel was that special person.

Steve and Susan Borthwick

8 November 2018

We were so sorry to hear about Bill. He and Dorothy were such good neighbours to Roy and June Borthwick on Lewister Road for over twenty years. We wish Dorothy and her children all the best in the days ahead as they remember such a wonderful husband and father.

David Gardner

1 November 2018

Dear Dorothy: I was very saddened to learn that Bill has passed away. I thought he was close to the best President Carleton has ever had - right up there with Davidson Dunton. I certainly appreciated his support in my capacity as Chair of the Carleton Fine Arts Committee before I became Chair of Biology. Now I understand why - my enthusiasms were similar to Bill's own.
Prof. David Gardner

Dennis Shigematsu

27 October 2018

Mrs. Beckel and family:
We are grateful to have been associated with Dr. Beckel through our mother and are so very much privileged to know a fine, refined, learned, gracious gentleman with strong values, humanity,leadership and a willingness to go to great lengths to do the right thing to better the educational institutions and communities he served.
More importantly from a personal level, by employing our mom as your housekeeper, the income earned from performing her duties was applied to her childrens' education and paying the bills when our father, a carpenter, was out of work due to cold weather or a lull in the construction business. Through this action, my siblings and I have enjoyed obtaining higher education and a wonderful quality of life.
Our mom told us how much she was treated with respect, grace, love. kindness, and dignity by Dr. Beckel and your family, which is a solid testament to the goodness and noble character he was to all. We are so appreciative.
May the good memories and love he had for you and the exemplary life he lived bring a smile through the tears.
Dennis Shigematsu and Family

Chris & MB Koester

26 October 2018

Meg (Stan) & family
Our sincere condolences on the loss of your father/husband/grandfather. At the age of 92 he lived a long & full life. And he definitely had a profound impact on post-secondary education & life in Canada! Part of that full life, as indicated in the obituary, was he love of family & his love for some of life’s indulgences. May your memories of him comfort you in your grief. You are in our thoughts.
Chris & MB Koester.

Andra Takacs

25 October 2018

Hello Meg and family

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, but wanted to let you know how very much I enjoyed the published obituary in the Toronto papers. It was beautiful and loving tribute to a man who obviously gave so much to his community and made Canada a better place in which to live.

Andra Takacs
Toronto, ON

Perry Rubin

24 October 2018

Well in 1965 I was in the first class at Scarborough College. Dean Beckel for the next three years guided our class gently through the birth pangs of our new faculty in a far off land at U of T. Always with a smile and a warm nature he encouraged us to be open about his new technology and video lectures. In ‘68 I graduated, and as class president of third year science I was given the honour of toasting and roasting the Dean as he left for Lethbridge. First graduating class! I went on to Dentistry but always remembered Our Dean. U of T can be a very cold place with little contact with the profs or administration. That was not the case at Scarborough. He turned the concrete walls into a soft blanket that comforted all that came. We all were richer having been given the chance to know our Dean.

Owen Holmes

24 October 2018


Notice of Bill's passing brought back a wave of nostalgia - so many pleasant memories from long ago - just old news now. So let me just say that from my four decades in the academic world Bill emerges as my finest administrative colleague.

Jean and I are most grateful for the friendship we enjoyed with Bill and the gracious hospitality from Bill and you, including that memorable visit at your stately old mansion on the Rideau.

Our very best wishes at this time as we celebrate Bill's full life of service.

Owen Holmes

From the Family