William Barton was born in Winnipeg on December 10, 1917, and died on November 8, 2013, in Ottawa. As a distinguished diplomat with a career spanning more than three decades, he dedicated his life to international peace and security and to the betterment of Canada. After serving his country in World War II, William joined the Canadian civil service as Defence Research Board Secretary in 1946, and in 1950 he became a secretary at the National Aeronautical Research Committee. Soon afterwards, he joined the Department of External Affairs, serving in Vienna and Geneva at the UN, and over the next few years held positions including Alternate Governor for Canada at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Assistant Under‑Secretary of State for External Affairs.
In the 1970s, William represented Canada in Vienna, Geneva and New York as an Ambassador and Permanent Representative for Canada at the UN; held leadership roles with the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; and served as President of the UN Security Council. He developed a reputation as an internationally recognized authority on peace and security issues and from 1984 to ’89 was the first chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.
In retirement, William was a sought‑after international affairs expert and active philanthropist supporting the education of future generations of diplomats. In 1993, he received the Order of Canada for having “enhanced Canada’s role and stature in the international community.” UBC awarded him an honorary degree in 1999. He also holds honorary degrees from Carleton and Mount Allison universities.