William W. Small was born on September 2, 1917 in Leshan, Sichuan Province, China. Leshan is about 200 km from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. One of four children, his parents were Canadian Methodist missionaries. Mr Small Sr., a carpenter by trade, was involved in the construction of what is now the West China University of Medical Sciences (Hua Xi Daxue, formerly West China Union University.)
Bill's early education was in China and he later attended the University of Toronto graduating with a B. Comm. degree. He was holder of the Senior Stick at Victoria College, "best all-round man in the graduating year", and president of the Students Administrative Council of the University of Toronto in 1940. In 1941 he returned to China with a joint appointment from the United Board for Christian Churches in China in New York and as a missionary of United Church of Canada. He acted as bursar at the West China Union University in Chengdu and taught Physical Education.
Bill remained in China through the revolution of 1949 even after funds from New York were suspended during the Korean War by order of the US government. In 1952, along with most of the remaining missionaries from North America, Bill returned home.
After coming back to Canada Bill joined the administration at the University of Toronto and in time became secretary of the university. In the late 1950ís Bill became secretary of the board that launched York University. He was the founding comptroller, first secretary of York University (1959-1966) and later vice-president (administration). For many years he taught a college course about China at Founders College. After retirement, he was secretary of the York pension plan and prominent in the York University Retirees Association.
Bill Small was active in the United Church of Canada. He managed things for his own church (Trinity St Paulís) and participated in the negotiations with the federal government and native groups over the damages/payments relating to the church operated boarding schools. His Christianity was one of service, not piety for its own sake.
Bill was so easy to work with, a team player like the athlete he was. He knew what should or needed to be done, and he coached you to do your best to get the task done. He, Jerome Chen, James Endicott, and others founded in the Canadian China Society in 1971. Bill served as president until 1999.
Bill returned to China several times, most recently in the fall of 2000. Together with other family members he was invited to participate in the 90th anniversary celebrations of West China University of Medical Sciences. The family members also returned to his birthplace in Leshan.
Billís life was one of service, to family, to York University and education, to the Church, and to China. He generously gave his time and great wisdom. His devotion was an inspiration to many people. His positive attitude and always cheery outlook were infectious. Bill Small was a Christian gentleman, perhaps an unusual term these days, but one that truly fits this fine man.
Mao Zedongís December 1939 Essay ďIn Memory of Norman BethuneĒ ended with words about the spirit of selflessness. I believe that Mao was right about the final few years of Normanís life. I know that these words apply to Billís whole life.
ďWith this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people. A manís ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.Ē
Bill Small was a man of value, to his family, to the United Church of Canada, to York University, to the people of China and Canada, and to all who knew him.