Bill Winegard, One of the U of G’s “Founding Fathers”, Passes Away at 94

Navy veteran, businessman, mayor, teacher, university president, Member of Parliament, cabinet minister, and life-long volunteer dedicated to the Royal City, his adoptive home, William Winegard passed away Thursday night at the age of 94.

“Bill Winegard played a pivotal role in helping U of G become the institution that it is today,” said University of Guelph President Franco Vaccarino in a press release.

Winegard arrived at the U of G three years after its founding, and was President and Vice-Chancellor for eight very pivotal years in the history of the institution from 1967-1975. He helped reconcile the three founding schools – the Ontario Veterinary College, the Ontario Agricultural College, and the MacDonald Institute – and turned the U of G into one of the country’s best comprehensive universities.

“Bill embodied the values that still help to guide this University: volunteerism, community engagement, leadership,” Vaccarino added. “He appreciated the complex nature of human beings, and helped make U of G a place that respects that individual complexity as well as the significance of our collective culture and history. He was a gentleman, and his generosity, thoughtfulness and passion will be remembered and missed by all.”

Winegard’s legacy on campus is secured with the William Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Involvement Awards, the Winegard Medal for undergraduate achievement, and the walkway from College Street to South Ring Road that bears his name.

After his days as the head of the U of G, Winegard found his way to politics. He was elected the MP of what was then Guelph-Wellington as part of the Progressive Conservative caucus under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and served two-terms in from 1984 to 1993. During his second term, he was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade from 1988 to 1989, the Minister of State (Science and Technology) from 1989 to 1990, and the Minister for Science from 1990 to 1993.

He was also named as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998, and was cited for his life and work supporting volunteerism and the advancement of science and research.

Guelph’s current political leaders joined the remembrances for Winegard.

“Bill was extraordinary not just for what he accomplished, but how he did it,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in an official statement.

“He was a generous volunteer throughout his life, a mentor to many, and a statesman through and through. He was a driving force behind many community achievements, such as the fundraising campaign for the John McCrae statue at the Civic Museum. I remember when he spoke on Remembrance Day at the Sleeman Centre, you could hear a pin drop. He received a standing ovation for his eloquent advocacy for Canadian veterans.

“We are grateful for Bill’s service to our community, and we know that his legacy will live on in many ways, large and small,” the mayor added.

“Everyone I know in Guelph respected, appreciated and loved Bill. He believed deeply in our shared responsibility to each other,” said MPP Mike Schreiner. “Bill was always willing to volunteer, to go the extra mile for people and community, and to advocate for the public good.”

“Sadly, we must say goodbye to a wonderful and remarkable person,” Schreiner continued. “Dr. Winegard will be missed, but not be forgotten. He will always be loved by those he touched with his kindness and compassion.”

Winegard is survived by his sons Bill and Charles, along with several grandchildren. He’ll also be remembered for the Guelph public school that bears his name, William C. Winegard Public School on Lee Street in the east end of the city.

“Dr. Winegard was a very special part of the spirit and the community of William C. Winegard Public School. His frequent visits to classrooms and as a guest to our special events will never be forgotten by staff and students,” said the school in a post on its website. “We are so very fortunate to have had time with him in our first five years as a school. We will miss him!!!”

Last year, the Guelph Public Library funded a series of short films about Guelph for Canada’s 150th birthday. One of them featured Dr. Winegard talking about his life and legacy, and you can watch it below.

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