Obituary of Sam Mikhail
Samih William Nicola Mikhail
Sam passed away on Thursday, December 17th, after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, surrounded by his loved ones: his wife Marsha, his daughter Carole, his son Pierre, his brother Nabih and his sister-in-law, Myra. He will also be dearly missed by his daughter-in-law Catherine, his son-in-law Ronnie, his stepsons, Nikolas and his wife Rebecca, and Shea, as well as his three grandchildren, Christiane, Hannah and Megan. He was predeceased by his first wife Tina.
Sam was born in Mansoura, on May 5, 1941. His father, William, was trained as a mining engineer. Due to economic hardship resulting from his loss of vision, he opened a small shop (1955-1960) in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo where he worked with his wife, Hélène. Sam told many stories of the hijinks the two boys got up to in their early years, from playing at the Heliopolis Sporting Club, to summers on the beach in Alexandria and visiting his Aunt Alice, who was a great favourite for her welcoming generosity and wonderful meals. Both boys were very intelligent, excelling at primary and high school, and earning engineering degrees like their father. They also had extensive social circles that included both friends and family. Sam met his lifelong friend Petro in 1958, their frosh year at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University. Tina and Soha were very close childhood friends. The two couples double dated for many years and this ended with Sam/Tina tying the knot in 1963 and Petro/Soha in 1964.
The society in Egypt did not offer Sam many opportunities for meaningful work. Sam and Tina left Cairo under the guise of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and after being hidden by a priest there, they moved to Beirut, Lebanon. After living in Lebanon for some time with Tina’s family and having their daughter Carole, they immigrated to Canada in the winter of 1965.
Sam and Tina stayed in Montreal at first, but quickly moved to Toronto, where Sam was employed by Bell Canada as a staff engineer where he was involved in the design and testing of Bell’s new “cross bar” telephone switching system. Tina worked as a French teacher at the Toronto French School. Soon Pierre was born, and the family moved to 64 Keewatin Avenue in midtown Toronto, where they lived for the next 40 years.
Sam decided to further his education, getting his Masters of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering at the University of Toronto, and then was quickly hired by Ryerson Polytechnic as a professor of Electrical Technology. He took on various roles at Ryerson, and was a major force behind the evolution of its technology programs to fully accredited engineering programs. The following years were a whirl of family life, children’s activities, sports and work. Sam was dedicated with Carole’s pursuits at figure skating, competitive swimming, diving and trampoline. Sam managed Pierre’s soccer teams and traveled with him to tournaments with great dedication. He sponsored several members of his family to immigrate to Canada, and often housed them when they first arrived. Sam and Tina were members of the YMCA running club and had a vibrant social circle. Sam ran a marathon with his friend Ruth, among many other sports accomplishments. The legend of the basement at 64 Keewatin began, with a long list of lucky people living there over the years, due to the generosity of Sam and Tina. Sadly, Tina passed away in February of 1994. Sam and his family were devastated, but life continued on.
In 1992, Sam became the Director of the Ryerson International Development Center (RIDC). He travelled extensively, consulting on various aspects of higher education planning and systems, beginning with Brazil and China and ending with far flung countries such as Pakistan and Rwanda. In all, Sam participated in over 38 international consulting assignments and projects in over 26 different countries. For this work, he received great acclaim, several awards, and the knowledge that he influenced so many to become better educated.
In August, 1998, Sam married Marsha McEachrane. His stepsons Nikolas and Shea lived with them, and the legend of welcoming friends to the basement of 64 Keewatin began again. During this period, Sam earned his PhD in Comparative Higher Education at OISE. He became the Dean of Engineering Technology and Applied Science at Centennial College, and continued consulting on international higher education projects funded by CIDA, the World Bank, and other multilateral agencies and governments. He was also an adjunct professor at OISE, and led the development of many new certificate programs at the School of Continuing Studies of the University of Toronto. He was a very busy man, and valued work greatly, still teaching at Centennial College only a few years ago. He leaves behind a massive group of students and colleagues whose lives he has touched deeply.
Sam was dedicated to his grand-daughters, who he loved unconditionally. He rarely missed any of Christiane’s swim meets or rowing regattas, and cheered on Hannah and Megan at their cross-country running races. He was incredibly proud of their academic accomplishments, from Megan graduating with a Commerce degree and Hannah and Christiane being accepted to Medical School and Chiropractic College respectively.
Sam not only loved and supported his immediate family, he truly cherished his extended family. He always prioritized the well-being of his nieces Cheryl and Nicole and was very proud of their families. Even this past summer, he would inquire about the “catecheets”, his enduring name for Cheryl’s twin boys, Theo and Cedric. He went the extra mile to help his cousin Tamer immigrate to Canada and welcomed his fiancé Mona to the family. When family members experienced a loss or a tragic event he was always there for them. When Freddy lost his sister to a tragic bus accident, Sam made a point of spending time with him and bought him a Christmas gift every year without fail. When his cousin Dolly was struggling with cancer and decided to end her treatment, Sam and Marsha travelled to Montreal to be with her. Her son Marc described how Dolly was so happy to see Sam, and to reminisce about their childhood. Marc was deeply touched by his visit and how kind and generous he was with his mother and children.
Sam’s struggle with Alzheimer’s was incredibly painful for his whole family and was also difficult for Sam himself. Sam’s personality – his intellect, his selflessness and humility, his gregarious nature, – was slowly lost to us. However, to the very end he found little, but meaningful ways to express his love and appreciation for those around him, and was a most generous man. The grief over losing Sam is felt widely by his huge circle of friends and family.
In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto or to the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest by using the Donations tab on his home page.
We invite you to share memories, photos and sentiments of his life here at his memorial web page.
Uniquely entrusted to eco Cremation & Burial Services Inc.
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