October 17th, 2017

Education pioneer, SACPA driving force Campbell dead at 95

By Mabell, Dave on May 5, 2017.

Gordon Campbell, longtime Lethbridge educator, activist and driving force behind the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, died this week at 95 years of age. Herald file photo by Tijana Martin @TMartinHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Tributes were paid Thursday to longtime Lethbridge educator and activist Gordon Campbell.

A founding member of the education faculty at the University of Lethbridge and the driving force behind the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, Campbell died this week in Vancouver at 95 years of age.

Though his family has not yet announced a public memorial, members of SACPA paused to share memories of the man who helped launch the unique organization during Canada’s centennial year, 1967.

“The longevity of SACPA is without a doubt the result of Gordon’s tireless work on promoting community and democratic values and his insistence that Lethbridge needs a non-partisan public forum, where a wide range of issues can be freely discussed regularly,” said Knud Petersen, chair of its board of directors.

SACPA members saluted Campbell in 2008 as volunteers celebrated its 40th anniversary. He and his wife Sylvia, also an educator, said farewell at their last SACPA lunch in January 2015.

Terry Shillington, another longtime SACPA member, credits Campbell with bringing many distinguished speakers to Lethbridge over the years.

“Gordon would not take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said – and the calibre of the speakers he secured built a national reputation for the weekly forum.

Campbell’s passion extended to many other spheres, including the work of the church.

“He always had a vision of what the church needed to be, and what it had to become,” says Shillington, minister at McKillop United when Campbell chaired a committee, sang in the choir and occasionally played the organ.

“Gordon and Sylvia were people who enabled change to happen.”

The Campbells’ passion was also evident during the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike in 1962, when they were living in Regina. While he served as that province’s director of continuing education, they came out in support of Premier Tommy Douglas as he fought to create the nation’s first medicare system.

After moving to Alberta, Gordon became founding chair of a Friends of Medicare chapter here, speaking out against Premier Ralph Klein’s plans for “extra billing” for faster medical care. He was elected provincial president in 2007.

Campbell earned education degrees from the Universities of British Columbia, Toronto and Calgary. His first classrooms were in Iron Springs and Monarch, but he soon moved into the field of continuing education.

He later became founding president of Selkirk College in Castlegar, and helped launch Okanagan College – now a university. In 1967 the Campbells moved back to Lethbridge where Sylvia became a social studies specialist at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute while Gordon joined the start-up team at the brand-new university. He became a founding member and associate professor of education at the U of L in 1969.

Former dean of education, Arthur Loewen, says Campbell played a major role in establishing the principles that still guide the faculty today.

“He was a man of innovative ideas and was quite a popular instructor with the students,” Loewen adds.

“He took on leadership roles in a number of efforts in the faculty and was probably the first faculty member to take students on educational trips overseas. I remember him taking a group to China when China was not an open society yet.”

Campbell presented seminars to educators in the Caribbean through many years of his retirement. He was also the author of “Community Colleges of Canada.”

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