McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster alumnus, rheumatologist remembered for sharing love of art

Published: March 20, 2017
Dr. William (Bill) Bensen

Dr. William (Bill) Bensen

Dr. William (Bill) Bensen, a nationally recognized rheumatologist who was a McMaster alumnus, faculty member and donor, died March 15. He was 67.

Bill Bensen came from a family with a long history in Hamilton and particularly at McMaster, with his grandfather, father and son, Rob all graduating with degrees from the University.

He was in the second graduating class of what is now known as the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, in 1973. He became a part-time faculty member with the Department of Medicine in 1978 and had held the title of clinical professor since 2007.

Bensen worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for people with arthritis suffering from joint pain and inflammation, and he had deeply personal reasons for taking up the fight.

His father, Dr. Harold Bensen, had been a member of the Hamilton Wildcats football team and then later, team physician for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In 1964, when William Bensen was just 14, his father developed rheumatoid arthritis.

Bill Bensen was a warm, friendly person who was full of ideas.  He and his wife, Wynn, were passionate collectors and supporters of visual art. Many of their pieces have been displayed around the University, including exhibitions at the McMaster Museum of Art, where both had served as directors.

In 2008, the couple commemorated four generations of the family graduating from McMaster by donating a significant art piece composed of 12 etched glass panels featuring images and landscapes of Canada's provinces and territories. The panels are installed in the Jan and Mien Heersink Reading Pavilion of the Health Sciences Library.

Bill Bensen was also a passionate advocate for incorporating the arts into medical education, and each year accompanied second-year McMaster medical students on a field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

"Bill Bensen was a wonderful clinician, scholar and teacher, and an outstanding supporter and friend of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine," said Paul O'Byrne, Dean and Vice-President of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Bensen believed ceremony was important to the medical-school experience. 

He and Dean John Kelton developed two important annual events for the school – the White Coat Ceremony for the incoming class and the Founders Dinner for the second-year class.

"Bill will be missed enormously at these annual events and for his ongoing passion and commitment to the medical school," said O'Byrne.

Bensen is survived by his wife Wynn, children Robert (Lyndsay), Ryan (Justine), and Jayson (Kate), and grandchildren William, Jack, and baby Bensen. 

Visitation will take place on Monday, March 20 from 2 to 4 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m., and Tuesday, March 21 from 2 to 4 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m. at Bay Gardens Funeral Home, William J. Markey Chapel, 947 Rymal Rd. E., Hamilton.

A funeral service will take place Wednesday, March 22 at 3 p.m. at West Highland Baptist Church, 1605 Garth Street, Hamilton.

Donations in Bensen's honour can be made to the Three Wishes Program at St. Joseph's Hospital.


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