The MCM community is in mourning at the passing of Dr. Paul Bates, one of its co-founders – a beloved finance instructor and a cherished mentor to everyone who came to know him.
By Dr. Terry Flynn
Dr. Paul K Bates died peacefully with his family by his side on September 4, 2022.
His family obituary can be read here.
A visitation will be held at KITCHING, STEEPE & LUDWIG FUNERAL HOME, 146 Mill Street North, Waterdown, Ontario, on Friday, September 9th, between 2:00pm-4:00pm and 6:00pm-9:00pm.
If you search for the term “servant leadership” in academic journals or professional articles, you would see such attributes as ‘putting the needs of others first’ or ‘promoting and enhancing the leadership capabilities of those around them’ – a deference to those that follow rather than a focus on themselves.
These characteristics and traits were at the core of Paul Bates’ personal leadership philosophy and mission. He was the most authentic servant leader I have ever encountered.
Of course, Paul was a decisive and consequential leader. He took on leadership positions in finance and banking, academia, non-profit and religious organizations. He crossed many difficult bridges and encountered many challenging people. However, at the heart of who he was, was his desire to make the people he met and worked with better – at their jobs, in their communities and in their personal lives.
Paul and I started at McMaster on the same day – July 1, 2004. I met him at a reception for new faculty at the DeGroote School of Business. He was my new boss (the Dean of the School) and I was a soon to be newly minted PhD and a new Industry Professor at the School. We hit it off immediately – maybe because we were both outsiders to the McMaster community. We talked about our private sector experiences and found that our paths had crossed, rather briefly, when he was working on Bay Street.
My office was just down the hall from his and he would often wander out to my office to take a brief break (Paul was a disciplined time manager, brief meant 5 minutes) from the new responsibilities that he had taken on. Later I would find out that he did the same for many of his new colleagues – to get to know them and to build a professional relationship with them.
Those early days were busy – we both had to prove that we could make it in this new and somewhat strange world. We both worked hard to learn the McMaster academic system and to build important new relationships. He did his decanal work and I started to build the MCM program, with his full blessing and support. We hit a few bumps along the road to final approval – we would have to get 19 committee approvals before we could admit our first cohort in 2007.
Paul was there to greet our first MCM students during that first residency, as he did for all future cohorts while he was Dean. He talked about the importance of communications management and the role these new academic “pathfinders” would have in bringing academic rigour and evidence to the profession.
In 2010 things took a difficult turn at DeGroote. A group of academic detractors set their sights on removing Paul from his position and to make life difficult for those that supported him. It was a nasty and protracted battle that resulted in tribunals, legal appeals and eventual suspensions and penalties to some of those that were attacking Paul. It was a very dark period in the School’s history and the impacts of that time have had long-term effects.
I was one of those targeted. I stood tall with Paul and those colleagues who openly supported him and his position as Dean. He was supportive of my idea to leave the School of Business and have the MCM program transferred to the Faculty of Humanities – a decision that would require the support of the Provost, President, and Deans at the time. Paul advocated strongly for this move to ensure my future career at McMaster was given the best chance of success.
That move was transformational – for me, my MCM colleagues and all our students. The MCM program has flourished in the Faculty of Humanities because of Paul’s vision and leadership. He put our collective interests first – true servant leadership.
As the dust settled after the DeGroote crisis and Paul left the School to become an advisor to the President, he started a journey that was challenging, transformational and rewarding. He completed his masters and Ph.D. at the McMaster Divinity College. After he graduated, I called him and immediately addressed him as Dr. Bates. He smiled and expressed his gratitude for my support during his journey. Paul was always smiling. From that point on, I only called him Dr. Bates as a sign of my utmost respect for him.
A number of years ago, we invited him to teach Managerial Finance in the MCM program – a course that he would teach on an annual basis. He had to apply for the position and go through the whole hiring process. The choice was obvious to the committee. With his academic background and professional credentials we knew that Paul would soon become one of our best instructors. His students loved him and enjoyed learning from such an expert in the field of finance.
When I saw him last, at our June convocation, it was noticeable that the cancer had returned and he was literally in a battle for his life. It was his first hooding of an MCM student. He was delighted to have this opportunity to recognize in-person, the student whose research he had personally supervised. You could tell under his mask that he was beaming with joy. What a great recognition of him it was as well as he walked across the stage with his MCM student and shook the hands of our Chancellor, President, and Provost.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay for the luncheon celebration, and that was the last time I saw him.
We were blessed to know him, work with him, and have his friendship. He has left a lasting legacy. His focus on business ethics, kindness and his welcoming attitude made everyone feel like they belonged. His approach to business, academia and relationships will be part of the MCM program forever.
Thank you Paul for your trust, confidence, and support – rest peacefully my friend.