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Alex Markle: Mr. Alumnus

Alumni members past and present and Presidents and Chancellors of the University converged for dinner at the Faculty Club in early October to mark, after three decades of service, the retirement of Alex Markle as Alumni Director.

If the University had a Hall of Fame (it certainly has enough other Halls), Alex Markle would be a cinch to be elected on the first ballot in the ‘builder’ category. For thirty years-since he volunteered in 1951 to ‘keep the Alumni Office open’ while his father, Alumni Association Secretary John Markle, recovered from a heart attack, to his retirement in October 1981 — Mr. Markle has shaped and guided the Association in league with its executive, all the while making sure that the University has been accessible to its graduates. Taking into account the length of his career as Director of the Alumni Association and the solidness of his rapport with alumni, incoming phone calls for the next while are apt to begin with, ‘Is Mr. Markle ... er, Miss Peirce there, please?’

And yet, in the beginning, he didn’t know if he would cotton to the position. He was young, he had come through World War II unscathed (he served as a fighter pilot with the South African and Royal Australian Air Forces and spent seventeen months in a POW camp in Italy), he had a BA from this University (1948) and a BJ from Carleton University (1949). In short, he had the world, staid though it was (remember, this was 1951), on a resilient string. But then, slowly, inexorably, the University started to become his world. The job was communication. He had the requisite training, he had the innate ability to get along well with people and he had the challenge of trying to maintain and perhaps top the level of excellence established by his father.

The challenge was to become more imposing because around the corner lay the University’s emergence from relative isolation, burgeoning enrolments, the building of new facilities, and the seeking of more money. Fund drives, the need to keep in touch with old and new graduates, the setting up of alumni branches across Canada, and annual Homecoming preparations kept Mr. Markle on the go. A less organized person may have grown weary from the load, may have said you go your way and I’ll go mine. Alex Markle showed a calm demeanor at the outset and that was the way it was to be through the years.

His steadfastness enabled him to earn two more degrees here (BEd, 1962 and MEd, 1965) and to polish his ‘people’ skills with respect to the four primary constituencies with which he came in contact — alumni, students, faculty, and friends. He recognized the importance of the second group; every student an alumni director gets to know is one less alumnus who will have to be pursued through the mail for years to come.

Mr. Markle would undoubtedly agree with a statement by a fellow director who noted that, overall, an alumni director has one of the most varied job descriptions on any campus. ‘Few other administrators need the skills of a business manager, a journalist, a marketing and sales specialist, a camp administrator, a travel consultant and a leader in group dynamics.’

The same director, discussing the hiring of an alumni director, said an individual could not do the job justice unless he believed in the institution he was representing. ‘That is why I would want to hire someone who understands and is dedicated to the college or university he is representing.’ For Alex Markle, it was ever thus.

Published November 1981.

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