About Henry Mandelbaum

The Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in the Social Sciences, Humanities or Arts is intended to honour OCUFA’s former Executive Director and provide an award to successful applicants who reflect Henry’s many and varied commitments, interests, dedication and generosity.

Henry Mandelbaum was the Executive Director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations from 1996 until his retirement in 2011.  Prior to that, he was the Executive Director of the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations, the Executive Assistant to the Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta, a political campaign organizer, a policy consultant, and a special advisor in the Manitoba government.

A sketch of Henry’s employment history, however, provides only a surface view of Henry’s essential qualities.  Henry was a tireless advocate for the rights and well-being of those involved in higher education.  His advocacy work, the alliances he nurtured with unions, student organizations, and other groups in the public sector were always directed toward the welfare of the larger community to which he belonged. He was passionate about social justice, and improving the lives of those who faced formidable social and economic barriers.  The principles of fairness and equity were central to his life.

Henry had many other fine qualities –  an appreciation of nature (particularly being out on the water in his boat), a love of animals, an eclectic and well-informed taste in music  ranging from classical opera to folk and rock, a fondness for modern dance, and a fascination with race car driving, both as a practitioner and later as an observer.

Henry was committed to mentoring those who worked with him and was a patient teacher.  Reluctant to accept credit for his own accomplishments, he wore his extensive knowledge and insight lightly.  He understood perspective, and knew not to take himself, or others, too seriously.  A gifted raconteur with a wonderful sense of humour, he used his subtle, and sometimes sharp-edge, humour to deflate pretention or defuse difficult situations.

He was also a kind and deeply caring person with a unique ability to forge lasting friendships, and maintain close ties with family and most particularly his wife, Thea.

In 2012, Henry passed away all too soon after a brief illness.  But Henry’s legacy endures in the Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship winners who exemplify the academic excellence and social justice commitment that Henry cultivated throughout his life.