Longtime York University staff member Sandy McNeil (John Alexander) passed away at the Sheridan Villa Nursing Home on July 1 in his 78th year.
McNeil graduated from Western University, where he achieved a double honours degree in both English and history, and also earned degrees in education (York University) and physical education (McMaster University). He began his career teaching high school in Hamilton, Ont., then took a detour to work in the Liaison Department at Western University. From there, he was contacted by York University to become the director of admissions, recruitment and transcripts, a position he held for 21 years before returning to his love of teaching English at Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ont.
McNeil was an active and committed member on the many boards and committees he served on, including the board of directors for both the York Finch Hospital and the Ontario March of Dimes, as well as the committees of the Association of Registrars of the Universities & Colleges of Canada, the Association of Universities & Colleges of Canada and the Ontario University Registrars’ Association.
He also chaired a committee to select students from across Ontario for the international baccalaureate program at the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, one of the United World Colleges. Under his direction, nine Ontario students were granted full scholarships to this prestigious college.
One of his most prized accomplishments was receiving the national Silver Medal Award presented by the Council for Advancement & Support of Education for Women in Science, Hopefully (W.I.S.H.) Video Communications: PSAs, News and Features in July of 1986.
Colleagues say McNeil always showed a special interest and respect for young people and many a student benefited from his mentorship and wise counsel. He always saw the best in people and was always willing to give them a chance. This included everyone from a high-school student to a prospective international university student looking to start their new life in Canada, students who were seeking asylum or those coming from a war-torn country. His greatest joy was watching others succeed.
Those who knew McNeil say he was admired for his sharp mind and engaging sense of humour. Students and colleagues could always count on his help and support. He always took time to listen to their thoughts and ideas and to engage in a meaningful conversation. He is remembered as having had a large heart, generous soul and a zest for life.
McNeil was an avid canoeist in the summer and skier in the winter. He also enjoyed Formula One racing, jazz music and political discourse. Although he faced many challenges with his health over the years, he was courageous and kept his humour until the end.
He leaves his wife, Susan; his son, John Alan Forbes (Violet); and his four grandchildren, Rilen, Anastasia, Gabriella and Kamila.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service celebrating his life was held on July 5 at the Ridley Funeral Home.