Celebrating the life and achievements of William D. Coleman, 1950-2023

William D. ColemanOn Friday March 24, 2023, William D. Coleman passed away at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton. He will be remembered by friends, colleagues, and students as deeply ethical, academically innovative and fearless, a supportive and collaborative researcher, an exceptional teacher, and a very kind and generous friend.


Will joined the Department of Political Science at McMaster University in 1977. He founded the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition (IGHC) and became its first director in 1998. In 2003, Will’s extraordinary contributions to teaching, scholarship, and service were recognized by McMaster University when it awarded him the title of Distinguished University Professor. In 2009, he left McMaster to join the Department of Political Science at University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs as the CIGI Chair in Globalization and Public Policy. That same year, his stature as one of the top scholars in Canada would be recognized with his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Among the numerous honours and distinctions that marked his career, Will cherished his appointment as Shakorihonnién:ni (Associate Professor), Deyohaná:ge (Indigenous Knowledge Centre) at Six Nations Polytechnic, in recognition of his collaborative work with Indigenous Peoples. In 2015, he became University Professor, which is awarded only to the most distinguished and influential scholars working at the University of Waterloo.


Will was a prolific writer and institution builder with a ground-breaking and strongly collaborative approach to research. His published work covered a range of topics, including the independence movement in Quebec, Canadian public policy, business-government relations, global health, agricultural policy, Indigenous governance, and financial regulation. His scholarship is not just remarkable for its depth but also for its breadth. One of his most outstanding contributions has been in the arena of globalization, where his work significantly increased existing scholarly capacity to explore and to better understand the institutions of global governance and their effects. As the recipient of one of the most prestigious grants offered by Canada’s leading research funding agency — a Major Collaborative Research Initiative — for his project Globalization and Autonomy, Will was able to mobilize and motivate a dynamic international and multidisciplinary team of over 60 scholars leading to an extraordinary collection of published work, culminating in the integrative 9-volume Globalization and Autonomy Series. Colleagues and students who were involved in these initiatives have been deeply appreciative of the intellectual community that they constituted.


At the undergraduate level, Will was the founder and Director of the Theme School on Globalization, Social Change and the Human Experience at McMaster from 1998 to 2002. He was instrumental in the launch of IGHC’s MA in Globalization in 2004. Beginning in 2011, Will served as the Director of the MA in Global Governance as well as the Director of the Joint PhD Program in Global Governance at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. These innovative undergraduate and graduate programs were among the first in North America to focus exclusively on globalization and global governance and his leadership helped to attract top students to each of them.


Will was also an extraordinarily passionate and committed teacher. During his time at McMaster, he regularly volunteered to teach large introductory political science classes, and it was a common sight to see him spending significant amounts of time giving one-on-one advice to undergraduate students. In his last years at the University of Waterloo, he chose to teach large undergraduate classes in Canadian Politics and consistently received the highest evaluations from his students. He was also a magnet for masters and doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows who always appreciated his wise counsel, patience, and unwavering support. Many went on to co-author with him articles in leading journals and chapters in important books. His numerous teaching awards attest to his deep and abiding commitment to education, including the 2002 President’s Award for Educational Leadership at McMaster University, the Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations teaching award in 1997, the 3M Teaching Fellow awarded by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in 1994, and MSU Teaching Awards in 1980/81, 1985, and 1986.


Will Coleman’s colleagues, students, and staff at McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, and the Balsillie School of International Affairs will be forever grateful to him for his tremendous leadership, intellectual generosity, and kindness of spirit.


The above recognition of Will Coleman was jointly prepared by colleagues in the Department of Political Science and the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition at McMaster University and the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. A memorial event will be organized and announced soon.