Gerstein paved way for women leaders

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While Western’s new Chancellor Linda Hasenfratz is a trailblazer in her own right, she is the third woman to hold the university’s highest ceremonial post. Reva Appleby Gerstein, the university’s first woman Chancellor, has likewise been a person of considerable accomplishment and legacy.

Now 102, Gerstein served as Chancellor from 1992-96 – part of a career in which she gained renown as advisor to prime ministers, premiers and mayors and to policy-makers in health, research, cultural institutions and corporations.

Gerstein, a psychologist, is widely known as architect, in the 1980s, of one of Canada’s most profound shifts in Canadian mental-health care, to a non-medical model that focused on healthy living beyond psychiatric hospitals.

She worked passionately to make sure people recovering from mental illness had access to homes, social supports, employment and dignity. And when the province opened a support centre for mental-illness survivors in Toronto in 1990, they named it Gerstein Crisis Centre to pay homage to “her gracious tenacity and integrity.”

Soon after Gerstein finished her work as Western Chancellor, she was awarded Companion of the Order of Canada, one of the highest civilian honours a Canadian can receive.

In addition to her doctorate in psychology from University of Toronto in 1945, Gerstein holds three honorary doctorates.

Western’s Department of Psychology continues to award a leading first-year master’s student with the Reva Gerstein Fellowship for Masters Study in Psychology in her honour.

Immediately after Gerstein’s time as Chancellor, Peter C. Godsoe served in the role, followed by Eleanor Clitheroe, Western’s second woman Chancellor, from 2000-04.