SEEC builder Alan Middleton to retire

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Alan Middleton, executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre and distinguished adjunct professor of marketing in the Schulich School of Business, is retiring after a 19-year career.

After a stellar 25-year career as a marketing practitioner with Esso Petroleum, UOP Inc. then rising to the position of executive vice-president and board of directors member of J. Walter Thompson (JWT) worldwide and president/CEO of JWT Japan, Alan left to complete his PhD at the Schulich School of Business at York University. He also taught at Rutgers Graduate School of Business in the US and at business schools in Argentina, China, Russia and Thailand. In September 2001, he took over as executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC), which trains more than 10,000 managers and executives domestically and internationally and is now ranked as one of the top management and executive educational training organizations in the world.

Alan co-wrote the books Advertising Works II and Ikonica – A Fieldguide to Canada’s Brandscape, and published papers for the ACA/ICA on Marketing Communications ROI, Client-Agency compensation strategies and Client-Agency Relations. He is a co-founder of the ‘Cassie’ advertising awards, a member of the Academic Committee of Leger Marketing and was inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends in the mentor category in 2005.

In 2015 Alan received an International Association of Business Communicators Toronto Communicator of the Year Award. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award for services to literacy in 2012, the same year he received a gold medal from the Association of Canadian Advertisers.

Accolades for Middleton in a special online guest book created for his retirement were many, from his staff at SEEC to his colleagues in industry and at the Schulich School, and they universally noted his generous spirit, his mastery of advertising and marketing and the legacy he leaves as a builder.

Schulich Interim Dean Detlev Zwick made the announcement earlier this month and joined more than 140 friends and colleagues in singing his praises. “I don’t know how many times I had to tell a journalist asking for some commentary that the best person to speak to about this is Alan. Alan always delivered, too. What I have always valued and admired about Alan is that everything he did – teaching, running SEEC, media commentary, etc. – he did to benefit and support Schulich, his students and his colleagues and staff. He’s the epitome of a team player. I and Schulich will miss him greatly.”

Rami Mayer, SEEC managing director, called Middelton, “an individual who possesses such a vast knowledge about nearly every topic. You have always been able to intelligently convey a point of view on what seems to be a varied array of topics, based on facts. You have a way of articulating this like no other and are undoubtedly the best public speaker I have ever met, and I have met many throughout my career. You are the definition of storyteller; someone capable of telling a ‘compelling story’ in a way that engages, never alienates, and is full of humour.”

Associate Dean, External Relations, James McKellar, professor of real estate and infrastructure at Schulich, noted how he worked with Alan to open the Miles S. Nadal Management Centre, located at King and Bay streets in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District in 1995, and the Executive Learning Centre at the Keele campus in 2003.

It was, McKellear said, “an interesting journey that reflects the many achievements of Schulich. Alan directly contributed to one of these achievements that is close to my heart and that is Art@Suite 500…to which Alan has contributed his time and support over these many years. This is but one small example of Alan’s many contributions to the success of the Schulich School.”

Jane-Michèle Clark, program director of SEEC’s Masters Certificate in Marketing Communications and a marketing instructor in Schulich’s MBA program, highlighted his many years of success as a teacher. “Students (SEEC and MBA) often talk about how much they enjoy your classes, admire your depth of knowledge on many, wide-ranging topics and the way your interesting insights have the ability to be both thought-provoking and provoking (which is wonderful in and of itself).

Elaine Gutmacher, who for many years worked alongside Middleton as SEEC’s director of operations, said that under his guidance, “SEEC grew and thrived, creating new and innovative programs. What a great ride we had…. Knowing you, retirement is not sitting and watching the world go by.”

Trina McQueen, first Bell Media Professor in Media Management at Schulich and involved with SEEC’s custom offerings to the arts and media community, recalled how she was directed to “speak to Alan” when the program was first established. “The program is still going strong,” McQueen noted. “It has developed a generation of leadership among all areas of the media sector: and welcomed students who work everywhere: producers, finance executives, journalists, lawyers, company founders, tech geniuses, marketers. You name it. Alan has been…ahead of us all the way. Full of ideas and imagination, but also heading us away from disaster, and always a source of advice that actually works…. For me, he is the spirit of Schulich: open, fearless, smart and always dedicated to excellence.”

Joyce Ziemans, University Professor and Senior Scholar; Co-Director of the Arts, Media & Entertainment Management Program at Schulich, said “his deep knowledge of marketing theory and of contemporary international business practice is evident in his work. I have loved working with him and always appreciated his insights and advice for students.”

Edward Waitzer, professor of Strategic Management/Policy; Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance and cross-appointed to Osgoode Hall Law School, also remarked on Middleton’s legacy at Schulich, “You’ve been a stalwart of the Schulich community for as long as I’ve been a part of it. You were one of the “builders” and leave a legacy you should be very proud of!”

Interim Dean Zwick also announced that SEEC Managing Director Rami Mayer (Schulich IMBA ’02) has been appointed SEEC Executive Director, effective Sept. 1, 2020. Mayer is also a graduate of York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (BA ’00) and studied at SEEC and the Australian Graduate School of Management.