Principal of New College (1991-1996)
By: Professor David Clandfield, May 2008
Frederick Ivor Case was born some 68 years ago in Guyana and lived for a time in Trinidad until his family settled in England. There he grew up during the postwar years in a large army family. He qualified as a school teacher in England and taught French and English there for a number of years. His B.A. (French and Spanish) came from the University of Hull in 1965 and was followed up with an M.A. in Political Science at Leicester University. He went on to teach English for a year in a French lycée before taking a position as Lecturer in French at the University of Toronto, based in New College. Within two years he had completed an external Doctorate at the Université de Lille and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1968, gaining tenure in 1974 and becoming a faculty member of the School of Graduate Studies at the same time. He became a Full Professor in 1980.
Fred’s career as a Professor of French would be enough for most people. An excellent undergraduate teacher, an inspirational graduate thesis supervisor (primary supervisor of thirty-three doctoral students; co-supervisor and examiner of countless more), a conscientious administrator and natural leader (graduate secretary, associate chair and then chair of the Department of French), an active researcher (five books, scores of articles, countless conference papers and invitational lectures), he also did much to ensure that a significant place was found within the French programs of the University of Toronto for the literature and culture of la francophonie (most notably of north and west Africa and the Caribbean).
But Fred went well beyond the confines of French Studies to become a pioneer of interdisciplinary studies in New College where he played a predominant role in the founding of two programs: African Studies in the 1970s and Caribbean Studies in the 1990s. In 1991, he became Principal of New College for five years, and while there, he not only launched Caribbean Studies but also lay the groundwork for two other New College programs (sponsoring Bengali courses in the undergraduate South Asian Studies now sponsored entirely by New College; and Jungian psychology courses, later to receive the largest ever endowment at the college).
Fred’s importance in the University of Toronto is still not exhausted by this recital of his accomplishments. He was an influential participant in the founding and development of the Transitional Year Program designed to make it easier for marginalized people with non-typical educational backgrounds to get into university. He worked to bring students of poor and immigrant backgrounds into contact with the University both at the elementary and secondary levels (mentoring many of them personally), in order to help them break out of the cycle of low expectations that is so often their lot. He was frequently called upon to advise senior university administrators on Race Relations, Employment Equity, Native Students, and overseas exchanges.
And Fred’s lifelong pursuit of equity and diversity did not stop inside the University of Toronto. Some examples are his work on Black Education with the Toronto Board of Education, on Human Rights Education at the Ministry of Education, on Native Students’ Access to higher education at the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, as a Trustee of the Royal Ontario Museum (in the wake of the controversial “Out of Africa” exhibit), and his active role on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.
He was particularly anxious to work in countries of the South, visiting and lecturing in the University of the West Indies and Senegal, contributing to the development of university programs in Madagascar and Tajikistan and to education policy in Guyana.
Nor must we forget the selfless way he dedicated himself to these lifelong struggles. Few are those who knew that as Principal of New College, the stresses that he subjected himself to were already affecting his health, until he was forced to undergo bypass surgery and end his term of office two years earlier than anticipated. Even as he recovered from the surgery, he returned to the Principal’s Office for nine more months to oversee the transfer of control of the New College residence and food services from central control to the college, a change that would bring an additional income stream from summer business and enable the College to develop its programs and services significantly over the ensuing decade. Nor did Fred retire to slippered solitude at the end of his Principalship. That was when he left to work on a three-year project—a teachers’ training institute in Tajikistan (on the border with Afghanistan), before returning to spend much of his time in Guyana. It was on a return trip to Toronto to attend the thesis defense of two more graduate students that he finally succumbed to the heart attack that took him from us.
Fred Case was not the longest-serving Principal of New College, nor is the full extent of his contribution as widely known as that of others. But in a College that proclaims as its mission the study, pursuit and advocacy of equity and diversity in all our activities, his work stands as an inspiration to all who share those principles, as it has been for the countless young people whose lives were touched and enriched by his deep compassion and commitment to their cause.