FASS News, Graduate Liberal Studies

Long-time SFU community member and patron of the arts, Yosef Wosk, named to the Order of Canada

December 17, 2020

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) congratulates Yosef Wosk on being named as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions as a writer, scholar, educator, and philanthropist. 

Aptly called a “Renaissance man of the 21st century”, Wosk holds doctorates in religion & literature and in psychology as well as master’s degrees in education and theology. Both SFU and ECUA+D presented him with honorary doctorates. He is a poet, bibliophile, art collector, curator, and patron of the arts who is committed to supporting museums, libraries, social services, health care and education as well as nature and heritage conservation. 

Wosk’s affiliation with Simon Fraser University is long-standing. He was director of interdisciplinary programs in Continuing Studies for 15 years where he developed such initiatives as The Philosophers' Café and The Canadian Academy of Independent ScholarsFrom 2015 - 2018 he also held a Shadbolt Fellowship with SFU’s Graduate Liberal Studies program and is the patron of the GLS program’s online student journal hosted by The Ormsby Review. He is currently a Simons Fellow and an adjunct professor with the department of Humanities. The Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is named for his father.

Wosk is an appointed member of the Order of British Columbia, a recipient of both the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, and the 2018 President’s Award from the Canadian Museums Association. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, having visited both poles and circumnavigated the planet five times, most recently in 2019.

Of this latest accolade, Wosk says “I was both surprised and relieved to receive this eminent award. On one hand it is recognition for a lifetime of labour; on the other, it is humbling and a great responsibility to bear. We are fortunate to live in such a nurturing country. I hope to continue multifaceted learning, evolving emotionally, developing spiritually, and being active for the benefit of others. Ars longa, vita brevis — Time is short; the work considerable; opportunities fleeting; obstacles many.”

In addition to founding and supporting hundreds of libraries worldwide, Wosk’s long list of civic engagement and public participation include: endowing Vancouver’s Poet Laureate program, being a founding benefactor of the Vancouver Dance Centre, and supporting such architectural enhancements as lighting on Vancouver’s Burrard Street Bridge, the rooftop garden at the Vancouver Public Library, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Library, and a reflecting pool to complete Arthur Erickson’s iconic design for the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. He also developed the 100,000-tree Morris J. and Dena Wosk Peace Forest near Jerusalem.  

Wosk was also involved in preserving the immense multimedia collection of Vancouver’s beloved independent video store, Videomatica, ensuring the safe archiving of over 30,000 DVDs, VHS tapes and Blu-rays, now held at libraries at SFU and UBC.  

The Order of Canada investiture ceremony typically takes place in the fall, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the ceremony is postponed indefinitely. 

Recently, Wosk has authored Memories of Jewish Poland: The 1932 Photographs of Nachum Tim Gidal (New York and Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing, 2019) and the forthcoming GIDAL: The Letters of Tim Gidal and Yosef Wosk (Douglas & McIntyre 2021). He plans to dedicate the next decade to writing and research — something he refers to as “a great privilege” — with eight titles in progress.