Almost forty-six years ago, Don McCurdy graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism. Since then, his support and attachment to the School just kept getting stronger and he became a mainstay to the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association for many years.

The School and the alumni association were sad to hear Don died on Tuesday, March 13. He was 67

The headline on Don’s former newspaper, formerly the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, recalled him as “kind and gentle“; former colleagues and alumni added “generous,” “caring,” “dedicated,” and “fun-loving.”

“He was not only a great reporter and editor, he was one classy guy. It is a real loss to Canadian journalism,“ said Prof. Anne McNeilly, who called it a “privilege” to work in the newsroom with Don for many years.

Don retired from the Record in 2007 but continued to care deeply about the practice of journalism, in particular, journalistic responsibility and accountability. Starting in 2010, he took on the post-newspaper job of helming the Ontario Press Council.

His efforts included ending the provincial council model, which he saw as ineffective, and he was instrumental in commissioning research into the feasibility of a national alternative.

“He wanted Ryerson scholars leading that research, and of course, he got his way,” said Prof. Ivor Shapiro, who, along with Prof. Lisa Taylor, conducted the research. “In the end (Don) succeeded in the goal he had set: Canada’s National NewsMedia Council is a vibrant part of Don’s legacy, as its several other founding parents will affirm.”

The National Newsmedia Council being established in 2015. Ryerson’s two student publications joined the council shortly before Don’s death.

“I hope he heard about that,” said Shapiro.

Taylor recalls consulting with Don about the purpose of news media councils: “Don’s commitment to journalism and its practitioners never wavered. Every single conversation with him was about preserving and enhancing the quality of the craft. So, now that I reflect on him, I realize that, while I think of him as one of the greatest friends Canadian journalism ever had, it may be truer that he was the greatest friend audiences of Canadian journalism ever had.”

After Don graduated from Ryerson Journalism in 1972, he became a loyal and active alum.

“He loved Ryerson and always said “yes” when asked to contribute to the school, whether with advice to students or organizing activities for fellow alumni,” said Shapiro, a former chair of the school.

He stepped up and then, when it was time, graciously stepped back.

“Not only did he serve as the president, but he also took on the ‘past president’ advisory role for three yearsa position that only called for a one-year term,” recalled Amanda Cupido, a former RJAA president and 2012 grad. “Going above and beyond to help others is what Don did best. On the association, he took an interest in the career paths of each individual executive member and provided guidance for the group as a whole, and to each member individually. You couldn’t help but love Don.”

And many, many did. Don Gibb, friend, fellow RJAA member and former RSJ professor, saw Don for lunch two weeks ago at an Irish pub in downtown Toronto. “He was, as usual, in good spirits, cracking his usual pun-style jokes, but missing the daily contact with journalism that had been such a staple of his life.”

Cupido: “What stood out most about Don was his generositywith his time, stories, advice and drinks!  Don was my sounding board and a talented, passionate and fun-loving guy. I will miss him dearly.”

The RJAA Executive in 2015. Back row, Don McCurdy (past president), Amanda Cupido, Annie Vettorel, Vibhu Gairola;
front row, Paul Knox, Jacky Habib, Lisa Pires, Rebecca Melnyk.