Alan Noon, longtime media specialist in photography, will be awarded the second annual President’s Medal for Distinguished Service at Western’s 305th Convocation ceremony. Chancellor emeritus John Thompson and Western President Amit Chakma will present the award to Noon at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17.
The medal recognizes those individuals who have provided exemplary service to the university over a sustained period of time, over and above the normal requirements of their positions.
“The vast majority of what we and others know and appreciate about Western has been revealed to us through Alan’s efforts,” wrote Charmaine Dean, Science dean, in her letter of support for the nomination. “We continue to appreciate the history and life of Western through the lens, the research and the technical expertise that Alan shared so generously and creatively. His work over five decades has tremendous impact within and beyond our campus. His books, films and slide presentations have provided Western with a wonderful legacy.
“He has significantly enhanced the dissemination of our scientific discoveries and documented the history and vision of Western, and the achievements of our students.”
According to Human Resources, Noon’s half century at Western represented one of – if not the longest – continuous service times for a Western employee. In 2011, he entered his 50th, and final, year at Western. Amazingly, he served seven of Western’s 10 presidents.
It was an intriguing time at Western in 1962 when Noon began in the Faculty of Science. The former media specialist in photography said a major building boom was underway, changing the landscape almost every day.
“When I came, it was a time of great change,” said Noon, who was born in Cleethorpes, U.K., then moved to Canada at age 12. “Every time you came on campus, it seemed like you needed a road map to get to work because there was a new building each time.”
For Noon, his time on campus began straight out of high school. While his intention was to become a teacher, an ongoing working relationship with Western researcher Helen Battle steered him toward the Department of Biology.
His photography work started in the early 1960s, when a young Noon began making slides, and then taking photos, as a favour for faculty members. While there were other photographic units on campus at the time – around eight or nine – they eventually disappeared, leaving Alan and fellow employee Ian Craig as the only campus photo unit.
“Alan had a relaxed demeanor that put the subject of his photographs at ease,” Craig wrote. “This, plus the ability to control the process from inception to finished photographs resulted in consistently very high-quality photographs. His versatility was also a strong asset to the university – from photographing individuals and groups of people for various departments, including the President’s Office, to photographing buildings, aerial photography and specimen photography, to scanning rare, valuable documents from the Weldon and Music Libraries.”
Biology professor Mark Bernards boasted about being the last department chair whose photo was taken by Noon for the Chair’s Gallery.
“Alan had a way of not only making me comfortable with the activity (I am not a natural for this). But he also made me feel special, the centre of attention,” Bernards said. “And I think that this is truly the essence of Alan’s success as a photographer, and what made him so important to Western. No matter the subject, at the time the photograph is being taken, the subject itself is all that matters. That sense of intent focus was palpable, but not in an intimidating way. Instead, it was respectful.
“That he brought this level of talent and professionalism to all his many and diverse endeavors across campus are what distinguishes his level of service above the normal.”
In 1980, Noon was hired by Western News and contributed photography for the next 14 years. His presence was seen up until his retirement – and beyond – in the popular The Way We Were photos series, published by the newspaper, as well as on the pages of the Alumni Gazette in its Memories section.
“You don’t realize it – not many people do. But the way you view the history of this university is oftentimes through the eyes of Alan Noon,” wrote Helen Connell, Communications and Public Affairs associate vice-president and Western News publisher. “For more than half a century, Alan has been a treasure trove, a keeper of images and memories. For an institution such as ours, one steeped in tradition, having Alan Noon available is invaluable. Thousands of people have been guided through this university’s past through his photography, words and memory.”
University Archivist Robin Keirstead echoed those sentiments.
“As a result of his many years of service, as well as his own personal interests, Alan became a font of knowledge with respect to many aspects of Western’s history, most notably key people, events and buildings and structures,” Keirstead wrote in his nomination letter. “He is one of a very select group of people whose knowledge of Western’s history is unparalleled. Indeed, if there is anyone who deserves the title of ‘unofficial University historian’ it is likely Alan.”
Recipients of the medal are selected by Western’s Honorary Degrees Committee.
Nominees for the award must have been retired/resigned from the university in any capacity (including Board or Senate membership) for at least one year prior to consideration and have no ongoing formal relationship with the university. The award is intended primarily to recognize administrative staff, but faculty may also be recognized for work or achievements that would not normally be covered by the professor emeritus designation or other service awards already in place.
Jan Van Fleet, former university Senate and Board of Governors secretary, was awarded the first President’s Medal last year.
“To me, Alan Noon has been one of the great unsung heroes of Western,” wrote Robert Barney, Health Sciences professor emeritus. “To him, Western has always been the ‘bottom line’ – its history, its reputation, the activities of its people that promoted our proud traditions and heritage across the country, indeed the world.”
Paul Mayne contributed to this report.