Colville service set for July 24

July 17, 2013

Fête champêtre

Alex Colville P.C, C.C., O.N.S

“I suspect that what troubles people about my work in which they find mystery and intrigue, may well be the idea that ordinary things are important.”

Alex Colville

Alex Colville, one of Canada’s most distinguished and celebrated artists and Chancellor of Acadia University between 1981 and 1991, passed away peacefully at his home in Wolfville on July 16.

Colville’s contribution to Canadian culture began when he joined the Canadian Army in 1942 as a war artist, and he was commissioned in 1965 to design coins commemorating Canada’s Centenary featuring wild creatures such as a rabbit and a mackeral. His works hang in collections and galleries around the world, and he received numerous honours and awards for his work including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, the Molson Prize from the Canada Council and the Won Dunn International Award from the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton.

In 1973, Alex and Rhoda Colville moved to Wolfville where they established themselves as very active well-loved members of the community. The entire town was saddened in December, 2012, when Rhoda passed away at home. The Colvilles had been married for more than 70 years.

Beyond his influence across Canada and internationally, Alex Colville made a significant contribution to Acadia. He was awarded an Honorary Degree in 1975 and in 1981 was appointed Acadia’s third Chancellor, a post he would hold until 1991. He continued to be an honorary member of Acadia’s Board of Governors thereafter.

“I met the Colvilles shortly after they moved to Wolfville in 1973 and ended up forming a lifelong friendship with these two remarkable people,” says Dr. James R.C. Perkin, Acadia’s 12th President and author of a 1995 book on Colville entitled Ordinary Magic. “Alex was very generous with his time while Chancellor and often met with students who sought him out for his wisdom and guidance. He was a very straightforward speaker with an ability to say very little, but to cut directly to the heart of any matter.

“Alex believed profoundly that life is comprised mainly of ordinary things and, so, thought it was important to recognize and to celebrate it in his work,” says Perkin. “He was an extremely disciplined person who believed that the one non-negotiable aspect of our lives is time. He said something to me once that I’ve never forgotten. He said that if you are lucky in your lifetime you might earn a million dollars or if you are unlucky you might lose it, but still have the chance to earn it back again. However, if you lose ten minutes, they are gone forever. He brought this discipline to his work at Acadia and his obvious comfort in a university environment and his ease at home in Wolfville made him a wonderful Chancellor and ambassador for our institution.”

The Colville legacy at Acadia includes both his professional work and his commitment to student success. The Colville Awards were established in 1991 by the Board of Governors and are awarded to a leading student entering his or her final year in Arts, Science or Professional Studies. This year, two $2,500 scholarships will be awarded. Acadia’s Art Gallery contains more than 35 of Colville’s works. The Colville collection has been assembled over many years through donations and contributions made by individual alumni and class gifts. Acadia’s collection includes serigraphs such as “Crow with Spoon” and “Fête Champêtre” but also a rare oil-on-board work “Light Fog” that was donated to Acadia by the Colville family.

“Our entire community is feeling a sense of loss,” says Ray Ivany, President of Acadia. “While Alex Colville was connected directly to Acadia through his term as Chancellor, he and Rhoda were part of the fabric of Wolfville and it will be hard for many of us to think of our community without them. The legacy left by Alex through his art and his many achievements will serve as reminders to all of us of the importance of place and the people around us in our everyday lives. We extend our sincerest sympathies to the Colville family, sons Graham and Charles and daughter Ann, as well as Alex’s many close friends.”

In addition to Rhoda, Alex Colville was predeceased by his son John in 2012. His funeral will be held July 24 at 10:30 a.m. in Acadia’s Manning Memorial Chapel.

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