Sept. 1, 2021

In Memoriam: Jim Brandon, 1949-2021

Dr. Brandon was a professor and former associate dean of professional and community engagement in the Werklund School of Education
Dr. Jim Brandon

It is with a deep sense of sadness that we mourn the death of our friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Brandon, PhD’05.

In a career that spanned five decades, Jim excelled as a teacher, principal, superintendent, professor and associate dean. Since 2009, Jim was a much valued faculty member of the Werklund School of Education, where he built strong relationships with external partners in provincial education.

Colleagues found him to be the consummate educator, but moreso, a friend, confidant and mentor. While he garnered numerous accolades over the years, he took most pride in the successes of his students and his role as an academic.

In the weeks prior to his passing, Werklund School Dean Dianne Gereluk visited Jim and found his incredible spirit and personality undiminished. “What struck me both on that particular afternoon, and in the visits prior, was his utter gratitude and privilege for what it meant to be an academic. He exemplified and appreciated all that this position held: an opportunity to mentor students, many opportunities to conduct research that was meaningful and impactful with the ultimate hope that it would help our communities in real and tangible ways.”

A welcome presence on campus, Jim was known as a storyteller who took the time to chat with everyone in the Education Tower, whether they be receptionists, custodial staff, students or fellow academics. Every door was open to Jim.

Jim’s kindness, empathy, and compassion are truly what made him special. Stories of his generosity of spirit abound.

Dr. Kent Donlevy, PhD, says Jim was a man who enjoyed a glass of wine and a good meal with friends. “Jimmy (as I called him) had a full life even before he became a superstar in Alberta’s educational administrative firmament. Always dependable, always thoughtful, always respectful, always a friend to those who needed a friend — when all others had left the building. I will miss him.”

“I had the honour of becoming Jim’s colleague when I joined the University of Calgary, and I have come to think of him as one of the most generous, thoughtful, collegial, and kind people I know,” says Brenda Spencer, associate professor. “Jim was indeed someone who did what he loved in the service of others.” 

Cynthia Prasow first worked with Jim during his time as a superintendent with the Foothills School Division. She recalls that no matter how busy he might be with other pressing issues, he was keen to get to know and mentor his teachers, particularly first-year teachers.

“We were so fortunate when Jim joined the Werklund School of Education! He was a role model to his students, all of whom benefitted greatly from his mentoring. His inquisitiveness, his quiet and humble way, was evident in all that he did as he touched so many people within Werklund and the greater community,” says Prasow. 

“During the past 10 years, rarely a day came to a close without a phone call or email from Jim — often beginning before 7 a.m., but frequently after he had already completed a lengthy run,” says Dr. Sharon Friesen, PhD’00. “For Jim, his health always was a priority. Even when Jim learned he would probably not be able to outrun the cancer that defied attempts to extinguish it, he said, ‘I may have cancer, but I refuse to be defined by cancer.’”

The UCalgary campus flag will be flown at half-mast on Wednesday, Sept. 1 in Jim's memory. 

In lieu of flowers and in remembrance of Jim's life and his commitment to education, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to the Jim Brandon Leadership in Education Memorial Graduate Scholarship at the University of Calgary.

A funeral service will be held at McInnis and Holloway, Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 Elbow Drive S.W., Calgary, on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. Funeral details and livestream link are available on the McInnis and Holloway website. An obituary and tributes can also be found there.