He grew up in Utica, N.Y., graduated from the Kent School in 1959, spent the 1959-60 academic year as an English-Speaking Union Fellow at Denstone College in England, and then graduated from Princeton. As a distinguished fellow in the humanities, Chan majored in art and archaeology, played rugby, and was a member of Colonial Club. He married Ann Marvell shortly after graduation and attended graduate school at Stanford, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1972.
From 1972 to 1979, Chan taught art history at Amherst; he then taught for a year at Smith College before joining the faculty at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, where he was named a full professor of art history in 1994. He spent several years in Florence, Italy, where he organized celebrated exhibitions at the Uffizi Museum on Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Gianlorenzo Bernini and published several catalogs on contemporary Canadian artists including the Drenters family and Ken Danby.
Chan is survived by his wife, Ann; their daughters Elizabeth and Meghan; sister Pamela; brother Hutch; and their offspring. He will be genuinely missed by all who knew him.