Class of 2003
The Honorable John W.H. Bassett was born in 1915 in Ottawa, Ontario to Margaret Avery and John Bassett, publisher of the Montreal Gazette. He would become founder and President of Baton Broadcasting Limited, a company that has since expanded and transformed into today’s CTVglobemedia.
Graduating with a B.A. from Bishop’s University in 1936, Bassett’s career as a reporter began with the Toronto Globe and Mail. Enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1940, he returned at the end of the war to a brief career in politics as a staunch Conservative.
His media acquisitions began with his father’s newspaper The Sherbrooke Daily Record, followed in 1952 with the Toronto Telegram. Baton Broadcasting was founded in 1960 to establish CFTO-TV, Toronto’s first private TV station. It was Bassett’s objective to eventually take over the CTV network, and he succeeded in his goal in 1997.
Bassett also expressed a keen interest in Canadian sports, owning the Toronto Argonauts from 1957 until 1979. He was also one of the “Silver Seven,” who in 1957 oversaw the Toronto Maple Leafs. A major shareholder in both teams, John became chairman of Maple Leaf Gardens’ board of directors in 1964, and President in 1969.
John Bassett’s philanthropy was bestowed generously upon medicine, the arts, and causes for religious tolerance, through such organizations as the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, the Stratford Festival, and the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. A friend of Robert F. Kennedy, Bassett was a pallbearer at his funeral. In 1985, John Bassett was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 1992 he was elevated to Companion, the highest rank of the Order of Canada. His appointment to the Order of Ontario was made in 1988.
Bassett died in 1998 at the age of 83, survived by his wife Isabel Macdonald, Ontario Minister of Culture and Citizenship, and his five children. He was inducted posthumously into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2000, and will be remembered as a prominent figure in Canadian business, sports and journalism.