Alan M. Clarke played an important role in York’s history

Alan Martin Clarke, one of the founders of York University, has died after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. Prof. Clarke died on June 22. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Margo, their four children and three granddaughters.

Born in Stratford, Ont., Clarke spent his early years in Sudbury and his childhood and teenage years in Ottawa South. He graduated from Glebe Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and ethics.

Clarke dedicated his life to social change through adult education, and community development. He was also a committed advocate for human rights. In the 1950s he spent several summers as a labourer/teacher and then supervisor for Frontier College in Toronto, beginning a lifelong interest in fostering adult literacy. He worked for10 years with the YMCA at various branches in Toronto. In 1958 he was the founder and first director of the Centre for Adult Education at the North Toronto branch of the YMCA which led to the founding of York University in 1959. From 1960 to 1966 he was executive director of the Canadian Citizenship Council and concurrently, for three years, of the Canadian Centenary Council. His next challenge was as the first executive director of the Company of Young Canadians, a position he held from 1966 to 1968. He began a 15 year tenure at Algonquin College in 1970 as the director of the Demonstration Project in Community Development and then as director of Continuing Education. From 1985 to 1986, he was an adviser to the Canadian Emergency Coordinator for the African Famine. The last 10 years of his working career were spent as a communications adviser for the International Joint Commission.

Throughout his working life and as a volunteer in retirement, Clarke worked with many local, national and international organizations, contributing, among others, to Project 4000, the Movement for Canadian Literacy and the United Nations Association in Canada. He was a contributing author to Strong and Free: a Response to the War Measures Act, in 1970. He was the author of several papers and reports in the fields of adult education, public participation, human rights, citizenship and education and community development.

A memorial service celebrating Clarke’s life and legacy was held in Ottawa at the First Unitarian Congregation, on Sunday, June 17. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Parkinson Society of Ottawa, 1053 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, K1Y 4E9.