U of T news
  • Follow U of T News

In Memoriam: Ken Taylor

Canadians mourn death of famed diplomat and chancellor emeritus of Victoria University at U of T

The University of Toronto is mourning Victoria University Chancellor Emeritus Kenneth Douglas “Ken” Taylor, who died on October 15, 2015.

An admired and active member of the U of T community, alumnus Taylor served as Vic's 12th chancellor from 1998–2004. He served on the Board of Regents and the Senate during that time and was awarded an honorary degree in 2007.

A strong supporter and advocate of the Vic One program, he was on the program’s advisory board from 2003–2005. In 2004, in recognition of Taylor's outstanding contributions, Vic created the Kenneth and Patricia Taylor Distinguished Visitor in Foreign Affairs Endowment in Vic One’s Lester B. Pearson Stream. 

A diplomat for the Canadian Foreign Service, Taylor held posts throughout the world, until his resignation in 1984. He was best known around the world for the role he played as Canada’s ambassador to Iran during the U.S. hostage crisis of 1979. This sequence of events became known as “The Canadian Caper” and garnered global attention thanks to his intelligence and bravery.  

“As Canada’s ambassador to Iran during the Iranian Revolution, Taylor valiantly risked his own life by shielding a group of American diplomats from capture,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement released Oct. 15. “Ken Taylor represented the very best that Canada’s foreign service has to offer.”

After serving the Canadian Foreign Service with high distinction, he went on to success in the private sector. He served on numerous boards of directors in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. His knowledge of world issues and political risk was of immense value to the companies he served. 

With honorary degrees from many universities, he was lauded on both sides of the border: he was named an officer of the Order of Canada and was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. He leaves behind his loving wife of 55 years, Dr. Patricia Taylor, whom he met while pursuing his MBA at the University of California, Berkley, and their son, Douglas Taylor.  

In Ken’s farewell message as chancellor for the winter 2003/2004 issue of Vic Report, he wrote: “As a Victoria College graduate, I am immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Victoria in this capacity. I was able to meet many Vic students, alumni, faculty and staff. What could be a more enriching and delightful experience?”

The University of Toronto flag at the St. George campus will be lowered to half-mast on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in memory of Taylor and in memory of Professor Emeritus Richard Miller

Read a Globe and Mail article about Taylor

See the CBC coverage

Read The Atlantic's story

Read the article in The New York Times