Walter George PITMAN
{ "" }
Share
Share Walter's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
PITMAN, Walter George "The arts are, above all, how we express the finest elements of our humanity – our understanding, our compassion, our caring, and our love." Walter was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. Keen, vibrant, and insatiably curious, he supported the arts, social justice, environment, and education – everything that is good and right. A man of rare integrity, he fought passionately for equality and justice. And he did so with compassion, kindness, and joy. Walter was born in 1929 in Toronto to Ernest and Elsie (Kendrick) Pitman. In 1952, he married the love of his life, Florence Ida Collinge (1925-2016). They lived a life of great beauty, generously supporting artistic communities and cultural institutions; almost every day of the week attending opera, film, galleries, museums, symphony, theatre, book launches, and choral concerts. Their home was both a gallery and meeting place, celebrating their commitment to creativity and family. Ida herself was a master spinner and weaver, and together they sought out craftspeople all over the world. Always on the go, Walter was an avid marathoner, skier, sailor, piano player, and choir singer. With Ida, he was a dedicated member of the Trinity St. Paul's church. Walter and Ida had four children, their pride and joy: Wade (Mary), Cynthia Lynn (Don), Mark (Jeanne-Marie), and Anne (James). They adored their grandchildren: Matthew (Esmaralda), Lisa (Sascha), Dan (Alison), Jeremy (Heather), Diana, Jaclyn, Blair, Josh (Jennifer), Zoe, Alexandre, Jared, Kieran (Charlie), and Noah (Taylor). They were beyond delighted to welcome great-grandchildren: Sebastian, Callista, Xavier, Keagan, Mackenzie, Dexter, Walter, Julian, Isla, and Kai. Adam and Val were cherished family, found later in life. Walter Pitman began his career as a dedicated high school history teacher at Kenner Collegiate in Peterborough, quickly becoming the head of the History department at Langstaff Secondary School in Richmond Hill. In 1960 he made history by becoming the first New Democratic Party (New Party) Member of Parliament for Peterborough, where he and Ida made their first family home. Passionate about education, he became the Dean of Arts and Science at what was then, a new Trent University. In 1967, he was elected as a member of the Ontario Legislature for the NDP where he became a well respected Education Critic, chair of the NDP caucus, and, in 1970, Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP. After a short time, he turned back to education where he eventually was offered the Presidency of Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University). Here, he immediately brought his penthouse office down to the ground floor in order to more accessible to students. Pitman Hall, a residence at Ryerson, was named after both Walter and Ida, at Walter's insistence. After Ryerson he moved on to be Executive Director of the Ontario Arts Council and then Director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He was a proud Member of the Order of Ontario and an officer of the Order of Canada. He was the Chair of Elderhostel Canada, Ontario Education Association, Canadian Association for Adult Education, Energy Probe, Arts Education Council, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Project Ploughshares, and Interim Waste Authority. Walter was a Member of the Board of National Ballet of Canada, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children's Chorus, and Campaign Against Child Poverty, and was one of the founders and on the steering committee of For Our Grandchildren. He wrote for the Peterborough Examiner and submitted a weekly column at the Toronto Star. In "retirement," he became an accomplished author of five books, supporting arts in education, and official biographer for Louis Applebaum, Harry Freidman and Mary Morrison, Elmer Eisler, and Victor Feldbrill. Walter's awards and accolades are just too many to mention. Walter died gracefully, in love, surrounded by his family. To honour Walter's lifelong generosity of spirit, please consider a donation to The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Orpheus Choir Toronto, For Our Grandchildren, or Parkinson Canada. A celebration of Walter's exemplary life will take place on Friday, June 22nd at 7 p.m. at Trinity St. Paul's United Church at 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto. Reception to follow.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Toronto Star from Jun. 13 to Jun. 14, 2018.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by His Loving Family
Not sure what to say?
48 entries
June 24, 2018
We have lost a wonderful human being and my condolences to the family. I have the pleasure of seeing Walter every time I come into my den as I see his picture in my graduating picture from Trent University where he was my Dean of Arts and Sciences. That was back in the day when everyone who graduated each year was in the same picture regardless of their area of study. I will miss his brilliant and welcoming smile at church and in the mall next door where we both lived as he and Ida walked hand in hand. He would have loved his memorial service. God has welcomed him home.
Carol-Ann Marshall
June 24, 2018
A life well lived
CAT Heaven
June 23, 2018
Anne, my deepest condolences to you and your family. What a full life of service and joy your father lead!! He was chair of several organizations that I have supported and felt passionate about for years.
How I wish I had known him.
The world is a better place for his having been amongst us.
May his flame live on through his linage and may his old ones welcome him home - life so well and richly lived!
Beth Guptill
June 22, 2018
Our heartfelt condolences Mark to you and your family - thank you for sharing Walter with the world and supporting his efforts to make positive change and inspire others.
Theresa & Team NSB
June 19, 2018
The Pitmans were our neighbours in Peterborough when we lived on Homewood Ave. I remember their children taking piano lessons from my mother, and I know that my mom stayed in touch with them for many, many years after we left Peterborough for Thunder Bay. I am so sorry to hear of Walter's passing and please accept my condolences. He was a great person, a truly wonderful human being.
Frances Koning-McCullagh
June 18, 2018
I served on the board of Project Ploughshares when Walter was our chair. His competence, enthusiasm and warmth brought a tone to the meetings that was almost celebratory. He was an exceptional human being. I am grateful for the privilege of having known him.
Bill Janzen
June 18, 2018
My sincere sympathy to Walter's family. He was one of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure to work for and a very dear friend. He will be missed.
Jill Livingston
June 18, 2018
I met Walter and Ida through my late partner, Joseph Carey, formerly of Peterborough. I soon grew very fond of them both. Walter's energy and enthusiasm seemed boundless. He touched many lives. I extend my sincere condolences to his family.
May Conder
June 18, 2018
The Pitman Report of the Metro Task Force on Racism & Violence 1976-77, was adopted by Metropolitan Toronto Council in 1978. The final report was titled, Now is Not Too Late, a comprehensive set of recommendations adopted by the Metropolitan Toronto Government in 1978 laid the ground work for major institutional change requiring cooperation among governments and civil society. It was the first time a municipal government in Canada addressed the issue of race relations head on. Walter Pitman provided a blueprint for action that covered arts, social services, policing, education applying a human rights lens throughout the report. Walter Pitman made so many meaningful contributions throughout his life, not the least of which is a report which helped move the race relations agenda forward in Metro Toronto. How fortunate we all were to have Walter in our community.
Rosanna Scotti
June 17, 2018
I remember with fondness and gratitude my friendship with Walter, and of course, Ida. My only regret is that, on my move to Ottawa, our contact faded. Generous to a fault, Always optimistic, always caring for others, he was one to be depended on. My sympathy to his family.
William (Bill) Sturgess
June 17, 2018
Walter has been a very important mentor and supporter for me throughout the past 20 years. During the 1990s we evolved and managed the Ontario Arts Education Institute professional development programs for artists and educators. We planned Summer Institutes at the Royal Ontario Museum and weekend follow-ups from September to April at performing arts organizations and museums across Toronto. Teachers worked on innovative arts programs in their classroom to receive an integrated arts credit from York University. The programs have deeply influenced participants, and Walter taught me so much about arts funding, program development, Board management, and leadership. Walter's dedication and commitment to arts education has been outstanding, and his passion for the arts has been truly exemplary. I have been so fortunate to work with Walter and have him as a close friend.
Barbara J. Soren, PhD
Barbara Soren
June 17, 2018
As a young lawyer I worked with Walter Pitman 1976-77 when he chaired the Metro Toronto Task Force into Racism and Violence, known as the Pitman Report. He became an important mentor who gave me the advice that determined my career path. We remained in contact for decades. I was proud that he attended my swearing in as the first racialized member of the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1994. He had an unbridled passion for ideas. I am saddened by his passing.
Russell Juriiansz
June 16, 2018
As I express my deep condolences to his Family, I do so in remembrance of a truly unique and wonderful human being. What a monumental privilege it was to have been able to engage in conversations with Dr. Pitman while I was studying at OISE. His love of and for the Arts in Education, was contagious. Although we were not connected to The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at the same time, we could converse about our respective experiences like kindred spirits. His vast knowledge and immeasurable contribution to the Arts in Education, specifically and to the larger community, in general, will both inspire and resonate for many many years to come. How fortunate it was for us all, that Walter Pitman came this way.
Sue Newman
June 16, 2018
Walter - I love that magnetic smile. I love your positive spirit and your deep commitment to social justice. I was honoured to participate in the Trinity-St Paul's community with you and Ida and to work with you on the capital campaign that re-invented the sanctuary and adjoining public spaces --- yet another of your innumerable contributions to faith, justice and the arts. I was delighted to work with you on the Keep The Promise Campaign and remind the federal government of its promise to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. And just a few months ago, I sat with you and our good mutual friend Ian Morrison to review the current strategy of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. I am so grateful for your presence in my life. I only regret that Hal Llewellyn and I never made good on our plan to sit with you and write your story as you would have told it to us. I trust you have found Ida and she is spinning while you are planning improvements to the music and to the social justice agenda in heaven. With deep gratitude, Michael
Michael Cooke
June 16, 2018
Walter will be forever missed. He was loved by all of us & he & his beloved wife Ida will be cherished in our memories forever. We will never forget your many kindnesses. With our deepest sympathy...Audrey, Angie & Jay
Audrey Lane
June 16, 2018
Walter and Ida were an amazing, kind and brilliant team. It is impossible to think of one without the other. I personally feel so privileged to have known them and to have come into their light. They shone light wherever they were - intellectually, artistically and as human beings. They were generous and supportive to many arts organizations, and they saw and worked actively to help alleviate the human needs of our society. Incredible people both, they will be remembered with love and with gratitude.
Lydia Adams
June 16, 2018
I was a young teen and chorister in the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir. My parents sat beside Walter and Ida at my first performance under the baton of Robert Cooper. This began a 30+ year relationship that continued as Bob and I moved to the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and as my parents continued to sit with Walter and Ida. When Ida passed away, my father wept. When my father passed away, Walter wept. Walter's passing brings sorrow to my Mother's heart and indeed to mine.

Walter was hugely influential, particularly in the lives of creative souls, which he especially cherished. May the music of our mouths and the passion of our heart, bring peace to this great man who rests in heaven. I imagine Walter is perpetually near a concert hall, an art gallery, a street filled with buskers, definitely a running track, and an open space for spontaneous community creativity.
Jocelyn Belfer
June 16, 2018
In my second year at Ryerson, Walter Pitman was my approachable and inspiring professor of political history. He taught me how Canadian government works, why people who dedicate their lives to public service deserve our respect, and how lasting an impact an exceptional teacher can have. I drew on his lessons throughout my career as an arts and news journalist. His fine influence was brief, but lasting.
June 16, 2018
As neighbours of Walter and Ida, Walter was always so great to talk to and so interested in our news. My favourite memory of Walter is them arriving at the cottage and Walter in his green bathing suit and he and the dog would head straight to the lake for a swim. Then both he and Aida would sit out and read. I was always amazed at the thickness of the books!! They were wonderful neighbours and we will certainly miss Wally. Sincerely Brian and Julie Taylor
Brian and Julie Taylor
June 15, 2018
I remember Walter through my parents and while growing up in Peterborough. My parent both thought a great deal of him. My condolences to his entire family.
Joan Ball (Whiteside)
June 15, 2018
For 40 years I was the so-fortunate beneficiary of Walter's wise counsel, generous mentoring, unstinting support, unfailing trust, endless kindness and personal warmth.
Walter's fervour for a worthy cause, his passion for the arts, his deep commitment to education and intelligent reason and his sensitive caring for all people were his hallmarks.
What a legacy of such lasting significance!
What a fulfilling life of such incredible accomplishments!
What a great loss of such a gracious, giving and authentic human!
I count myself as one of the privileged many to have moved in Walter's orbit of blazing light!
Walter once told me institutions don't have memories.
Rest assured Walter your memory will be both loved and lasting!
ROBERT COOPER
June 15, 2018
Walter Pitman...a true giant of a man...and so humble. His support for the Arts was formidable. In the midst of his very active life-well into retirement, he sat on the Board of Directors of the Toronto Children's Chorus. How very fortunate we were. Our deepest condolences to his family. We loved Walter and Ida, and now they are together again.
Jean Ashworth-Bartle
June 15, 2018
Walter taught me geography at Bathurst Heights in 1954, his first teaching gig. 45 years later he was an advisor on the Moderator's Consultation on Faith and the Economy for the United Church. He was one of the most humble, ethical, joyous, and encouraging people I ever met. His mind and actions ranged over all of life's dimensions. His books on the arts, his political and teaching career, his faith inspired countless people throughout Canada. He was friend and mentor. Thank you Walter for being part of my life.
Bill Phipps
June 15, 2018
Walter was president of Ryerson when I began as a young and nervous faculty member. His gentle and productive style of leadership served as model throughout my career, long after he left Ryerson. I am confident that his family will have many wonderful memories of this amazing person. My deepest sympathies.
Donald McKay
June 15, 2018
It's been an honor and a pleasure to be able to count both Walter and Ida as life-long family friends. Truly lovely, caring and devoted people! Our sympathies and thoughts are with all of you.
Claire Binnie and Jill Beaupre (Ritchie)
Jill Beaupre
June 15, 2018
Walter's enormous dedication to the arts has touched the hearts and minds of so many. And I am but one.
Deborah Dunleavy
June 15, 2018
What an absolutely wonderful human being. Such great compassion and feeling for his fellow individuals. I had the great pleasure of working with Walter at Ryerson in the mid-seventies, as a Faculty member and on the Board and later at OISE. One of a kind who will be truly missed by all who knew him.
Marvin Zuker
June 15, 2018
During my time at Ryerson and in retirement I was privileged and enriched by Walter and Ida .. the best of times
Ken MacKeracher
June 15, 2018
Walter was a good, good man. He led with love and a healthy dose of pragmatism. He had this beautiful ability to bring everyone into the circle and solve hard problems together. He was always so filled with honest respect for the people he worked with, and I always trusted him. I will miss him. He's what the world needs right now.
Tricia Baldwin
June 15, 2018
My introduction to Walter took place in his office at the Ontario Arts Council where my OISE colleague Clive Beck and I went to ask him to stand for the directorship of OISE when it was struggling to maintain its existence and independence. Thankfully he agreed and became a wonderful colleague and enhanced OISE' s reputation in the broader education community. When both of us retired we continued to meet near his home on a regular basis until his health failed. We shared many values and interests in education,politics and music. Walter was one of the very few who acted on his passions and gave much more than he got wherever he went. His joy for life, his love for Ida and his family,his optimism and his warmth toward others was contagious. When his ability to communicate deteriorated we kept in touch through his son Wade.
I miss him.
Malcolm Levin
June 15, 2018
Walter was a wonderful human being and social democrat. His passion for lifelong learning and adult education for all were among his core values. He was a pasionate educator, Canadian and world citizen. Condolensces to his family and friends - he made us
all better people.
Ron Faris
June 14, 2018
I feel honoured to have known Walter through our involvement in For Our Grandchildren. When he spoke it was always gentle and his words showed great wisdom. I wish I had known him better.
Guy Hanchet
June 14, 2018
I worked closely with Walter during his time at OISE. He was a wonderful mentor and an outstanding champion for Equity issues. I still recall the two of us persuading the OISE Faculty Union that the use of the pronoun "he" in all contexts was no longer acceptable! Thank you, Walter, for all that you did to move the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion agenda forward those many years ago. I learned so much from you. My sincere condolences to your family.
Angela Hildyard
June 14, 2018
To know Walter was to have known a great man.
Sylvia Sutherland
June 14, 2018
jack and margaret murray
June 14, 2018
Thank you for your years of service as an MP and MPP. You will be sadly missed.
Tom Young
June 14, 2018
I first met Walter when he was President of Ryerson and I was an active alumni. We got to be friends and I enjoyed many conversations about education and life in general. Many years later he approached me to come and work with him at OISE which I did for several years and we kept in touch for many years after we both had left. Walter was a true leader and a wonderful human being and had a very positive influence on thousands of people. Walter truly made a difference in this world.
David Guptill
June 14, 2018
A prince among men. A gentle man. A loyal friend.
A fine Canadian.
/aw
June 14, 2018
It was a privilege to have known Walter; a life well lived.
John Bell
June 14, 2018
Walter was a great inspiration to me as a teacher and track coach in North York. Later than as a colleague at Trent University and a fellow citizen in public affairs. My deepest condolences to the family.
Robert Page
June 14, 2018
My deepest condolences to all the family. Walter was a great man and a supporter of so many. I treasured meeting him early in my own career at OISE through his contribution to my first edited collection "How Theatre Educates". A fitting contribution indeed for someone who cherished both the arts and education his entire life. He will be remembered. Warmly, Kathleen Gallagher
Kathleen Gallagher
June 14, 2018
Mr. Pitman was my homeroom teacher in grade 9 at Kenner. He was a very kind man & I remember his lovely smile . I am 70 yrs. old now but have never forgotten him !
June 14, 2018
Walter was my neighbor at the Atrium. I admired Walter's keen intelligence and how he embraced life. The arts were important to both Walter and Ida. He was a champion of Canadian musicians and wrote about them. It was an honor and privilege to have had him as a friend. Walter definitely enriched the lives of so many.
Bill Teichman
June 14, 2018
Brought tears to my eyes. Remembering Walter from Kenner CVI and afterwards. Have a huge Pitman election sign in my garage - Peterborough NDP archives. Rest in peace, dear leader.
June 14, 2018
I extend my condolences to the family of Walter Pitman. Although I did not know him personally, I remember seeing Mr. Pitman a number of times from the visitors' gallery of the Ontario Legislature and, after the 1971 election, I recall reading his column in the Toronto Star before he became president of Ryerson. He made a highly valued contribution to the well-being of Ontario.
Steven Mosher
June 13, 2018
A genuinely wonderful man. It was a privilege to have known him and his wife Ida.

He touched all of us with his sense of optimism, his sense of humour and his incredible humanity.
Cam Finley
June 13, 2018
I was very honoured to get to know Walter when he was writing his many books for Dundurn Press when I was Vice President there. He was a much loved author that spread his joy of writing and of life to everyone he came into contact with. We loved to see him come into the office. I will miss you Walter but will never forget you.
Beth Bruder
June 13, 2018
For our friend Walter, you blessed our lives with energy, commitment and generosity but most of all ... joy. Your legacy is indelible. You and Ida will be forever part of our lives.

Robin and David Craig
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences