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Joseph Stanley Will was born in 1874 in Newmarket, Ontario, the son of Rev. P.D. Will and Caroline Anne Collins, who married in 1866. He attended University College at the University of Toronto from 1894 to 1897 where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree. He studied for his doctorate at Columbia University in New York where his thesis was on Protestantism in France and received his degree in 1921. Before joining the University of Toronto, he taught at Manitoba College, Winnipeg and Dartmouth College, Hanover N.H. In August, 1938 at the age of 64 he married Esther Margaret Berry, another U of T alumnus (BA 1932, MA 1935), and they had two children, Richard Drake, and Joseph Jr. He retired as professor emeritus in 1945. He died in Toronto on June 1, 1964.
He was appointed Lecturer in the Department of French at the University of Toronto in 1910. Two years later he was promoted to Associate Professor and by 1916 he had attained the position of Professor. In 1921 he took a 15 month leave of absence to study in Paris and returned to Toronto in 1922. As a result of this sabbatical Prof. Will gave interviews and lectures on his research as well as his impressions of France. In 1933 he gave a series of ten lectures on 19th Century French Literature at University College. The Varsity reported on October 12, 1933 that Prof. Will did not chose the topic of the lectures. Instead it “has been a request of the college as part of the regular lecture programme – and a permanent air is given to the whole series of lectures”.
Prof. Will was best known for his book Protestantism in France Volume 2 (1598-1629) published by the University of Toronto Press in 1921. It was based on his doctoral thesis and was intended as a multi-volume series. As he states in the Preface to Protestantism in France, “Volume I of this study…deals with the sixteenth century, volume II with the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII, volume III with the attempt of Louis XIV to establish religious unity and the results of that attempt in the eighteenth century”. Other publications included “Comparative literature; its meaning and scope” reprinted from the University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 2, January 1939, and a review of “The reconstruction of the original Chanson de Roland” by Frederick Bliss Luquiens in 1910.