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MacDONALD – Alan Hugh

March 3, 1943 – January 28, 2010

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of Alan MacDonald, highly respected and much loved father, husband, friend, colleague and mentor.

Born in Ottawa but raised in Halifax, son of the Honorable Mr. Justice Vincent C. MacDonald QC and Hilda MacDonald, he earned a B.A. from Dalhousie and a B.L.S. from Toronto. He began his illustrious library career at Dalhousie in 1964, moving to become the University of Calgary’s Director of Libraries in 1979 and its Director of Information Services in 1992; the additional posts he held and honours he received nationally and internationally are too numerous to mention.

He was often most widely recognized by Calgarians as the University Orator who presented 127 honorary degrees at convocations from 1989 to 2002. In retirement he combined a lifelong passion for aviation with volunteer contributions to the libraries of the Calgary Aerospace Museum and the Military Museums; in his encyclopaedic knowledge, film had a special place.

A big man in every way – body, mind, spirit, heart – he will be immeasurably missed by his wife Minnie Joldersma; his sons, Eric and Nigel MacDonald and their partners, Dacia Fauth and Jasmin MacDonald; his stepson Willem Klumpenhouwer and friend Melanie Malchow; his brothers, David MacDonald of Kingston and Brian MacDonald of Canberra; a loving extended family, lifelong friends AR (Randall) Smith and Joe MacDonald of Halifax; his sons’ mother Betty MacDonald of Moose Jaw and many others across Canada.

A Celebration of Alan’s Life will be held on Friday, February 19, 2010, from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m., in the Alberta Room of the Dining Centre at the University of Calgary. Forward condolences through Alan was a passionate advocate for literacy in all forms. In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Calgary Learning Centre, 3930 20 Street S.W., Calgary, AB T2T 4Z9 Telephone: 1-877 686 9300,

In living memory of Alan MacDonald, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Chapel of the Bells, 2720 CENTRE STREET NORTH Telephone: (403) 276-2296.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Dear Minnie,
    Our thoughts are with you and your family at this time. I have such fond memories of Alan in his many roles — librarian, orator, aviation enthusiast, Emeritus president, and perhaps most strongly, since Arlene also experienced this side of Alan — as passionate advocate for the Parkdale Community. He will be dearly missed by all his communities.
    Bob Stamp

  2. Dear Minnie,

    I was stunned when I read Alan’s obituary a few minutes ago. What a wonderful colleague and acquaintance he was, and I will miss him very much — although we didn’t see each other very often these days. I am so grateful that we met recently in Edelweiss, and I got to enjoy one last time his rich voice and rich sense of humour. You both seemed to be enjoying retirement so much; I am sorry you didn’t have very long together to enjoy the travel and more leisurely schedule.

    Best regards to you. His is a passing to grieve, but a great life to celebrate. I will watch closely for the memorial tribute.


    Jim Dugan

  3. I will miss Alan – always a cheerful soul, ready with a joke or lively comment, and a great supporter of the military history program at the University of Calgary. You did well, Alan.

  4. Leacy O'Brien :

    I enjoyed many an interesting conversation with Alan in my years with the Canadian Library Association. He was a ‘rare edition’ and his contribution to libraries and literacy in Canada unparallelled. My sympathy to family and friends.

  5. Barbara Boettcher :

    Dear Minnie,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. My deepest condolences to the MacDonald family. The university community have lost a gifted orator and a valued colleague, who will be greatly missed.

  7. Roxanne Roebroek :

    Please accept my regrets at Alan’s passing. I knew him at
    least 25 years ago when he was Director of Libraries at the U of C,
    and I was a Librarian II in Social Sciences. Your description of
    him as a big man- body, mind and heart- couldn’t be more true.
    Alan was truly larger than life! I didn’t know the man he evolved
    into, but I knew the young Alan to some extent. He was an
    extrovert among introverts, a man in a woman’s profession,
    well-spoken and well-read. He stood out like a sore thumb-
    all in a good way. Truly he had “the gift of gab”! When I read of
    his passing, I was so sorry for your loss – truly a tremendous
    one! At my age, I know these things are inevitable, but I feel
    that a light has been turned off in the world, and I’m sorry.
    Please accept my condolences.

    Roxanne Roebroek

  8. Mary Valentich :

    Dear Minnie and family.
    I am very sorry for your loss. Alan was a rare and special person. Please know that many will be thinking of you.
    Mary Valentich

  9. Annette LaGrange :

    Dear Minnie and your extended family,

    Alan was indeed a big man. We remember him in so many ways, each of them reminding us of our loss. But none will equal your loss. My heart is with you.


  10. Donald M. Norrie :

    I met Alan a few short years ago through his affiliation with the Air Force Museum. He vetted much of the written material associated with the large mural display in the Atrium as well as the Air Force Museum. He was a master of the written word. His last large work in compiling “An Aviation and Space Book of Days” will keep his memory in the minds of aviation enthusiasts for a long time to come.

  11. Minnie & family:

    I am so sorry to to hear of Alan’s passing. My thoughts are with you.


  12. maurice yacowar :

    Minnie, I’m so saddened by your loss. We are all so much poorer without this man of profound humanity, warmth, wit and eloquence. He was one in 20 million.
    All the best to you and the family.

  13. Allan Gallant :

    I’m certain you will be flooded with condolences from an amazing variety of people. I am sincerely going to miss Alan, my years working with him at the Aero Space Museum were amazing and he taught me so much by instruction and by example.

    Allan G.

  14. Dear Minnie and family,

    I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. My thoughts are with you all at this difficult time.

    John Hooker

  15. On behalf of the Alberta Association of Library Technicians (AALT), I would like to express my deepest condolences. Alan was an amazing man whose life touched and inspired many.

    May you find comfort in the knowledge that Alan will live on in the thoughts and shared memories of all who were fortunate to have known him.

    Kim Martin
    AALT President

  16. Alan arrived at the U of C at the same time I started my undergrad. Over the following years I began to work for Student Affairs and had the opportunity to work indirectly with him on various campus projects.

    Although I never worked with him directly, it was clear to me that other staff and faculty members regarded Alan with great respect. He left a strong impression and I was very sad to see his photo in the paper today.

    I wish to pass on my sincere condolences to his family.

  17. Aunt Anne and uncle John Wolters :

    to: Ms. Minnie Joldersma:

    Dear Minnie:
    Our sincere condolences with the passing away of Alan. We wish you the very best in the future and we hope that your memories of Alan may be of comfort to you. We also want to express our condolences to his children.
    With love, your aunt Anne and uncle John.

  18. Elizabeth Sjogren :

    I was catching up on my newspaper reading this afternoon, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw Alan’s obituary. My sincerest condolences to you and your family, Minnie. Please know that I will remember Alan with fondness and respect. He was kind to me, and I am grateful to have known such a terrific person.

  19. My sincere condolences on the passing of Alan. I was fortunate to have worked with him for 5 years at the Aero Space Museum. He was one of the most giving volunteers the organziation had. It was not un-common to hear other staff and volunteers say “ask Alan, he’ll know the answer!” He quickly became a mentor, sounding board and friend – I will miss him.

    Kim Verrier
    Former ASMAC Volunteer Manager

  20. Robert Thornborough :

    I met Alan as a member of the Library Director’s Group and remember him as brilliant but humble, a big man by any measure, but someone who always saw and reacted to every opportunity to enable others who were often of lesser intellect and achievement. He will be missed by many.

  21. Bill Melenberg :

    Although I never met Alan, my thoughts and condolences go out to you in this time of grieving. My sincere sympathies.

  22. I was greatly saddened to learn of Alan’s untimely and cruelly premature death. He will be remembered for his wisdom, wonderful sense of humour, and collegiality by all who worked with him. I offer my most sincere condolences to Minnie and the family.
    Mike Boorman

  23. Nigel and Geordie Pottle-Facey :

    Geordie and I are deeply saddened with the loss of our friend Alan. Not only was Alan a brilliant librarian and raconteur, but he was also part of our family. We spent countless Friday nights eating dinner with him and his family when we all lived in Calgary and we were honoured to be part of his family, watching his children grow up. Nigel and Eric, we know you will miss your father deeply – he was your father and your friend – I think of all those nights with the three of you bent over your boxes and tubs of Lego creating fantastic buildings, I think of his library of aviation books which I lived among in his apartment for a year back at Dalhousie, his leadership in libraries across Canada and the world. We will miss his generosity of spirit – his larger than life persona, his love of family and his kindness to all who knew him. We mourn with Minnie, Eric, Nigel and his friend Betty as well as all those whose lives he touched. He will be part of us forever.

  24. Alice and Dale Smith :

    Hello Minnie and Willem,

    Of course, we were so very sorry to hear of this sad loss to you both. Minnie, please know that we have prayed that God gives both you and Willem peace over the months ahead, and puts his arms around you with comfort. Stay well. Love from your cousins, Dale and Alice.

  25. Dear Minnie,

    My condolences at the passing of your husband.

    May God comfort you at this sad time.


  26. Jenny & Martin Oldengarm :

    Dear Minnie:
    We too were deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Alan, and want to assure you that you and your family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. We think back with fond memories to the time we could spend with you and Alan last October. We will long remember the warmth and hospitality of your home. We’ll keep in touch!

  27. There are very few people who I admired as much as Alan. He was a mentor, friend, wit, and very decent human being in a world where those qualities are increasingly in short supply. What a wonderful man and the world is much less of a place without Alan. I will miss him so much.

  28. Bernie & Mary-Jane Novokowsky :


    The sudden loss of Alan is a shock, tragedy, and a time of deep sorrow. His passing is an immense loss to our community as well as you and family – too immense a loss for words to adequately express.

    We all will miss and remember Alan in our individual ways. I will particularly treasure the coffee shop meetings with him and you, discussing our interests of the day such as military history and the future health of our community. I will also remember and appreciate how well you worked together in your dedicated volunteering of organizing and archiving Parkdale Community Association records of the last 35 years.

    You both remain in our thoughts.

    Bernie & Mary-Jane

  29. Debby Armstrong :

    To Minnie Joldersma and Alan’s family,

    I’m so sorry to hear of Alan’s passing. He was always such a vibrant man and it was a pleasure to run into him at the U of C even after his retirement. He was always ready with a quick hello and he had such a great sense of humour. My thoughts are with all of you.

  30. Brian Franks, A/President, Parkdale Community Association :

    Parkdale Community and the the PCA Board and Executive extend their deepest sympathy and extend their condolences to the family and friends of Alan MacDonald.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time as we all know he will be sadly missed.

  31. Bernie & Mary-Jane Novokowsky :

    The sudden loss of Alan is a shock, tragedy, and a time of deep sorrow. His passing is an immense loss to our community as well as you and family – too immense a loss for words to adequately express.

    We all will miss and remember Alan in our individual ways. I will particularly treasure the coffee shop meetings with him and you, discussing our interests of the day such as military history and the future health of our community. I will also remember and appreciate how well you worked together in your dedicated volunteering of organizing and archiving Parkdale Community Association records of the last 35 years.

    You both remain in our thoughts.

  32. Harry & Lamie Joosse :

    It is our prayer that God who created us may grant you comfort in this your time of sorrow.


    Harry & Lamie Joosse

  33. Richard de Boer :

    I knew Alan through his passion for aviation. About the best head for facts and trivia I have ever met. A wit to keep one on ones toes as well. On behalf of the Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, we will miss his presence and contributions.

  34. Suzanne van den Hoogen :

    My deepest and sincerest condolences are extended to the family and loved ones of Alan MacDonald. I had the privilege of experiencing Alan’s passion for libraries at a Brown Bag Lunch he facilitated last year at the Dalhousie School of Information Management. As a new librarian, I am honoured to have had that opportunity.

  35. Leslie E.O. Delaney (nee Redmond of Halifax) :

    I knew Alan many years ago in Halifax when I was in nurses’ training at the Halifax Infirmary. He was a dear friend. He thoughtfully sent me a dozen red roses when I graduated. Although we have not been in touch since then, I have always held him in high regard. I could see even then what a fine fellow he was, gifted and with a promising career. I know he will be greatly missed.

    My sincere condolences to his dear wife and family.

    Leslie Delaney

  36. I, too, am one of those whose life was impacted by Alan’s support and wisdom. The emails circulating throughout the library world carry the subject “sad news” and his loss is indeed that. His legacy is a strong and vibrant energy that will endure throughout the many fields to which he contributed so much.

    My heartfelt condolences to his family.

  37. Stuart McKinnon :

    Dear Minnie and family,

    Having worked with Alan for more than 20 years, the sad news of his passing brings back many memories. He was a visionary whose enthusiasm and steadfastness helped build and support the U of C in many enduring ways.

    My deepest sympathies to family and close friends.

    Stuart McKinnon

  38. Terence and Edith Penelhum :

    Terry had the good fortune to know Alan both as the orator who presented him for a degree and as a long-time campus colleague who was full of vigour and humour and wisdom. We send heartfelt condolences to all his family.

  39. It was a shock to hear about Alan’s passing. He was so full of life when I saw him at xmas! He touched me with his wit and charm, and I feel grateful to have known him. Please accept my condolences at your family’s loss.

  40. Roslyne Buchanan :

    Dear Minnie, I was so sorry to hear this sad news last night. What a wonderful gift he was and what a pleasure to have known a man of his rare stature.
    May the joy of memory burn brightly.

    My heart is with you and your family,
    Roslyne Buchanan

  41. Dear Minnie, and Alan’s sons.
    Kaye and I were profoundly saddened to learn of Alan’s passing. We have all lost a good friend and colleague, and the world is a less happy place without him. His contributions to the university and the larger community will be long remembered and warmly regarded, particularly his splendid, and carefully researched introductions for honorary degree recipients; I shall never forget his reference to Peter Gzowsky as “the cartographer of the Canadian soul”
    Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with you at this time. Please know that we share your grief, but we also have some wonderful memories of a person, and a life well-lived.
    We are away, and regret that we will miss the celebration of Alan’s life. We will be with you in spirit.
    Don and Kaye Detomasi

  42. Madeline Adamson :

    I would like to extend my sympathy for the loss of such a fine man. Alan MacDonald was my boss for a number of years and I have the utmost respect for his kindness, fairness, and encouragement. He was a wonderful person and there are many who will miss his presence. The world will be a smaller place because of his passing. I know that your memories of him will keep him alive in your hearts.

  43. Allan Chambers :

    Words fail me at this time in the passing of a colleague, friend and mentor. Alan had the kindest heart and was always willing to help anyone, no matter the field, and provide a helping hand. We collaborated on many issues during his time in the VP suite and I learned a lot from our talks during many lunch hour discussions. He was always so proud of his sons Eric & Nigel and when Minnie came into his life it seemed to spark a new awareness within him. It was my fortune to have Alan as my MC at my retirement in Febuary 2004. It is often said “We spend the first half of our lives looking for success. The second half, we look for significance. At the end of the race, you want to be able to look in the mirror and say, “This was a life well lived””. I can only second this thought and say he was a great man whom I’ll miss very much. If you are a person of faith you know his teaching is not over, however, as he is needed in the world beyond.

    All my love to Minnie, Eric, Nigel & Willem (whom he mentioned often after he remarried).

    Al Chambers

  44. Mary Hemmings :

    Minnie & family,
    I’m going to miss Alan. He hired me “for two years”. And for many years thereafter, he offered me advice and rolled his eyes every time I had a “cunning plan”. His sense of curiosity, wonder and his energy made him an ideal mentor. His sense of humour and fairness made him a wonderful human being.

  45. Frances Groen Trenholme Director of Libraries Emeritus, McGill University :

    I was saddened to hear of the death of Alan. He had so much more to contribute. I experienced his leadership both in medical librarianship and in academic librarianship. He was, most importantly, a builder of consensus through his speaking skills and the warmth of his personality. His personal chemistry provided inspiration and growth in all aspects of the information profession. We will not see his like again.

  46. Michelle Iatrou :

    The sad news of Alan’s death reached me in Athens, Greece where I retired after working in the Library of University of Calgary for 18 years, most of them under his guidance. He was a great director. I admired him when he was speaking, even if he had to explain why I did not deserve a promotion or cut my salary. When I was listening to him he make me feel good to be alive! I admire also his anti-smoking crusade, he said: ashtrays will thinks of the past as spittoons! It is sad that he did not live to see that day.
    I will always be thinking of him.
    Michelle Iatrou (mki)

  47. Kathleen Hogan :

    Dear Minnie, Eric, Nigel and extended family,

    Although we do not know each other, we are connected by our memory of the same wonderful man. My deepest condolences to you in this great loss.

    In the early 1980s, I was privileged to serve as assistant to the Director of Libraries when Alan held that position. In my first evaluation, Alan commented, with characteristic generosity, that he probably had gained more from the year than I had. Not so. I had the delightful and instructive experience of observing his masterful management of difficult meetings (and people), his incisive analysis of complex problems, and his wonderful wit and warmth.

    This same man who met with cabinet ministers and renowned authors, artists and architects, also stopped by the Library Lounge for coffee, chatted with students and occasionally played Trivial Pursuit with staff at lunch (his team always won).

    We are all impoverished by the loss of Alan, none more than you, but we are also greatly enriched by his legacy of wit, warmth and wisdom.

    Kathleen Hogan

  48. Minnie,

    I am sorry to hear of Alan’s death. I remember him particularly from convocation and remember what a terrific presence he had. My thoughts are with you.

    Ann Levey

  49. Minnie,

    I am so sorry to learn of Alan’s passing. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Doug Shantz

  50. Christine Spring-Gifford :

    Dear Minnie and Family,
    I am so sorry to hear of Alan’s passing. You have lost a wonderful husband and father and the world has lost a great man. I first came to know Alan through Nigel Pottle and Geordie Facey and came to appreciate him in his role as family man and friend. I later had a number of opportunities to work with him on a professional basis. His brilliant mind, his interest in so many areas, and his willingness to share his knowledge made him a great mentor and teacher to those of us in the library world. I will miss him and all that he contributed to my life and the lives of all who were fortunate to know him professionally and personally. He will not be forgotten.

    Christine Spring-Gifford

  51. Maureen McDonald :

    Dear Minnie and Family,
    I was so sad to hear of Alan’s passing. He was my mentor and a very kind and thoughtful person. He will always hold a deep place in my heart. My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
    Maureen McDonald

  52. Emily Gillen (Ballou) :

    Dear Minnie,

    I’m very sorry to hear about Alan. I wish you lots of love and warmth at this time and always. You are fortunate to have shared your life with such an interesting and passionate man! Be well.

    Love, Emily

  53. sylvia nieboer :

    Dear Minnie,

    I am so sorry to hear the news of your loss. It was so wonderful to see you again awhile back and that you were doing so well. I wish you strength in these times. Sylvia Nieboer

  54. Judy Love-Eastham (formerly Carrie) :

    I have just learned of Alan’s passing and am deeply saddened. It has been over 15 years since I last saw Alan and I regret that I never properly thanked him for his mentorship so many years ago. But – he had a deep impact upon my career and my life and I will be eternally grateful for having been blessed with his friendship and tutelage.

  55. Jonathan (Jon) Miller :

    It is with great sadness that I have just come to realize that one of my best friends from St. Thomas Acquinas School in Halifax has passed away. He will be missed by all his friends and family. He was a great friend.

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