OTA email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2002-12-11 published
By John OTA Wednesday, December 11, 2002 -- Print Edition, Page A24
Academic, restauranteur, activist, art lover, eccentric. Born May 15, 1938, in London. Died July 17 in Toronto, of Hepatitis C, aged 64.
Alan POWELL epitomized the expression, "thinking outside the box." In fact, when Alan was involved, the box was often nowhere in sight.
Academic, restaurant owner, activist, art lover and eccentric, Alan POWELL died at home after a courageous battle with Hepatitis C, contracted from a blood transfusion in 1986. Among his many accomplishments, he founded the Hepatitis C Survivors Society in 1994.
He received a B.A. in sociology at the University of Leicester and emigrated to Canada in 1961, where he gained an M.A. at the University of Alberta at Edmonton and a PhD at the University of Toronto.
During the 1970s, Alan taught sociology at the University of Toronto but was also known for his course, Power and Strategy in City Politics at Innis College. Alan encouraged students to work with municipal councillors on campaigns and in their riding offices to gain a "hands-on" understanding of city politics. His multi-disciplinary reading list included Plato, Marx and Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. He sparked lively discussions that deliberately turned everyday situations upside down to unearth alternative perspectives of urban and political analysis. Brown eyes darting around the room, he would lower his head and rub his beard in quiet thought and then suddenly sit up and speak eloquently in his Welsh lilt with an enlightened analysis that would sway the group. As Alan said, the role of the university is to make people think critically.
In a new challenge in 1979, Alan unveiled Major Roberts Restaurant on Harbord Street where he revelled in the role of maitre d', concocted imaginative menus and filled customer's glasses with after-dinner cognacs into the wee hours of the morning. And while the business side of the restaurant had its ups and downs, the creative side was never lacking as Alan's zeal for art, poetry and music was as essential in his intimate dining room as the seasonal kitchen and decadent sauces.
Alan's action that will have the most lasting effect on the city of Toronto was his tireless involvement with others in the Stop Spadina Expressway Campaign in the early 1970s. While every other city in North America was capitulating to short-sighted expressway mania to accommodate the automobile, Alan led a determined campaign to make Toronto the first city to say no. In doing so, he helped halt the construction of a concrete and asphalt swath that incredibly would have sliced through the heart of the city and would have demolished and divided large sections of vibrant neighbourhoods. In 50 years, citizens will have long forgotten the Stop Spadina Expressway Campaign. But they will still enjoy the benefits of Alan's tenacity, dedication and vision of preserving the most culturally rich and wonderfully diverse sections of the city. Alan said, it is the fact that people still live in distinct neighbourhoods in the downtown core that makes Toronto unique from other cities in North America.
Yet with all these life accomplishments, it will be his generosity toward Friends, his luxurious dinner parties with limitless potables and his unbridled enthusiasm for life that Alan will be most remembered for. His warm greetings, laughter and acute inquisitiveness will be greatly missed. Whether he was attending an art opening or just sitting down for a beer with Friends, Alan's energy was contagious, his imagination endless and his need to see the world outside of convention was inspirational.
No doubt, Alan POWELL is in heaven right now, hosting sumptuous parties, gently encouraging people to speak their minds and leaving the box way, way behind.
John is a former student of Alan POWELL.
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