Former U of A president Myer Horowitz remembered as exemplary leader and scholar

As the university’s ninth president from 1979-89, Horowitz was known for his devotion to education and endearing personal touch.


Myer Horowitz, who served as the University of Alberta’s ninth president from 1979-1989 and was known for his personal leadership style and dedication to teacher education, has passed away at the age of 89. (Image: Detail from “Portrait of President Myer Horowitz,” 1989, Christan Nicholson, University of Alberta Museums Art Collection 1989.3)

Myer Horowitz, who served as the University of Alberta’s ninth president from 1979-89, has passed away at the age of 89.

Horowitz will be remembered for his leadership, his scholarly work devoted to teacher education and his personal touch on the campus he served.

“Myer Horowitz’s passing is a loss that reverberates across Canada,” says U of A president Bill Flanagan. “He was an influential and dedicated educator and an exemplary academic. The University of Alberta is grateful for his visionary leadership and deep commitment to build a better and more just world. He inspired those he met and left an enduring legacy of what was possible.

“On behalf of the University of Alberta community, I send my condolences to his family and many friends. We have lost a remarkable man.”

One of his goals as a new president, Horowitz reflected in 2015, was to introduce himself to the university’s community.

“The main purpose was, even though a lot of people knew me because I filled other administrative positions at the U of A, was to help people see what makes me tick both as a human being and as a professional, and provide some insight into how I would handle the presidency.”

One of his habits was to send handwritten notes, which endeared him to staff and students, according to the U of A history book, I Was There.

“He knew the institution inside and out and is fondly remembered by hundreds of staff and students as the president with a personal touch,” wrote author Ellen Schoeck. “No one who received a handwritten note from him has forgotten it.”

Born in Montreal in 1932, Horowitz took his teacher’s training at McGill University and eventually earned a master’s degree in education from the U of A in 1959, followed by a PhD in education from Stanford University in 1965. Horowitz then taught as a professor and became assistant dean in the Faculty of Education at McGill University, before accepting a position of chair of the Department of Elementary Education in the U of A Faculty of Education in 1969.

The first president to rise through the full ranks of the university, Horowitz also served as dean of the Faculty of Education from 1972 to 1975 and vice-president (academic) from 1975 to 1979 before becoming president.

In his role as president, Horowitz led the U of A through many years of tight provincial budgets, while managing to still develop the campus. During his time as president, the U of A partnered with the city and the province to bring the World University Games to campus in 1983, scoring the university international prominence and leaving a legacy of improved and new facilities, including one of the most distinctive, the Butterdome. The SUB Theatre, opened in 1967 within the Students’ Union Building, was renamed the Myer Horowitz Theatre in 1989 to honour the outgoing president.

Throughout his academic career and as a scholar, Horowitz was deeply committed to teacher education.

He was involved with programs, practices and policies around teacher education and during his tenure as president, he continued to teach a doctoral seminar.

“Myer was a visionary, and his leadership and passion for education has left a lasting legacy,” says Jennifer Tupper, dean of the Faculty of Education. “I was blessed to have many conversations with Myer over the last three years and will deeply miss his wise counsel and friendship.”

Horowitz broke ground as a master’s student at the U of A by focusing his thesis on education supports for mentally disabled children, along the way becoming a lifelong ally of Winnifred Stewart, an Alberta advocate who pioneered educational rights for disabled youth and their families.

In 1991, Horowitz was instrumental in establishing the faculty’s Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development (CRTED), which is supported by the Myer Horowitz Endowment Fund. The fund also supports the Horowitz Teacher Education Postdoctoral Fellowship, allowing post-doctoral fellows from around the world to participate in CRTED research projects. In 1994, with his support, the Faculty of Education established the Horowitz Institute to promote professional development, focusing on policy issues in education.

He remained involved in the CRTED’s ongoing work until as recently as this summer, participating in monthly research issues sessions and adjudicating the 2021 winner of the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in Teacher Education in the Faculty of Education, an award supported by his namesake endowment fund.

Horowitz received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the U of A in 1990, and was named an officer of the Order of Canada in the same year.