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A Brief History of Bethune College

Adapted from a history being written by Professor Paul Delaney, which will be made available on this site next year.

Norman Bethune College was established in August 1971.  It was York’s 9th College (preceded by Glendon, Founders, Vanier, Winters, McLaughlin, Stong, Osgoode and Atkinson).  At that time, it was called College G and its initial home was in the basement of the Steacie Science building (currently the home of the Steacie Science Library).

The first Head of the College (then known as the College Master) was Dr. Doug Killam, a Professor of English. 

As a university, York was still very young at 12 years old, and the students and faculty (Fellows) of College G were full of energy and ambitions, to create a “different” College experience at York. 

Not surprisingly, the 1971 to 1972 timeframe was full of firsts.  The first student College Council, first student College Constitution, first Fellows meeting, first coffee shop (Lichen), first discotheque (Spinning Wheel), first College newspaper (The New York Thymes), first College courses, all happened that year.  The academic theme of the College was African Studies or Third World, and in January 1972 a referendum was held to name the College.  Norman Bethune was the clear choice from the ~500 ballots cast.  The York University Board of Governors ratified the name in May 1972.  The college moved to its current home (Bethune College) that same year.

Dr. Henry Norman Bethune was a Canadian physician who made important contributions to military medicine based on his experiences as a battlefield doctor in the Spanish Civil War and with the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the 1930s. His Birthplace in Ontario is now a National Historic Site.

Bethune College has undergone many changes since 1971, including a shift in its academic theme towards science and science & society, and a shift in its membership as the “college home” to students in the Faculty of Science and the Lassonde School of Engineering.

We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year, and a more detailed college history is being researched and written by Professor Paul Delaney. We look forward to posting it here when it is ready!


Note: before 2018 Heads were called Masters.

2023-2024John Amanatides
2021-2023Paula Wilson (currently on Sabbatical)
2015-2021John Amanatides
2014-2015Mazen Hamadeh
2008-2014John Amanatides
2005-2007Byron Wall
2000-2005Paul Delaney
1999-2000Fred Morgan
1994-1999Paul Delaney
1989-1994Fred Morgan
1983-1989David Lumsden
1979-1983Griffiths (Griff) Cunningham
1978-1979David Shugarman
1973-1977Ioan Davies
1971-1973G.D. Killam

College Council Presidents

YearCollege Council Presidents
2023-2024Masood Syed
2022-2023Arman Sadr
2021-2022Myra Whitfield
2020-2021Nicole Shwartz
2018-2020Adam Brihmi
2017-2018Joey Fahd
2016-2017Tomas Mendes Simoes
2014-2016Jires Karaborani
2013-2014Anil Mohabir
2011-2013Clifford-Roy Baker
2010-2011Anik Sarkar/Sara Pardisnia
2009-2010Vanessa Hunt
2008-2009Dharam Sangha
2007-2008Ilya Shoimer
2006-2007Joel Warsh/Ilya Shoimer
2005-2006Melissa Bridgeman
2004-2005Sanjeev Amirthanathan
2003-2004Ryan Gonsalves
2002-2003Amila Nissanka
2001-2002Chris Luckhardt/Cheryl Allin
2000-2001Ravi Singh