The recent death of Alison Atkins was a painful shock to many of us in Ottawa, particularly those in the arts. Although she was a great communicator, she hid her light under many bushels. The first contribution that we know of is the founding of a theatre group in Whitehorse in the early 80s, when she was working for the Federal Government. She moved to Ottawa to work in the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, before going to Harvard Business School. This led to a career in management coaching, in which capacity she consulted frequently for the Banff Centre for the Arts.
In 1995, she joined the Board of Salamander Theatre for Young Audiences, and eventually became Chair. As Ontario Arts Council and Ottawa school board budget cuts to the arts finally killed this theatre, Alison had the sad task of winding it up, but managed in the process to divert some assets to GCTC.
The PAL Ottawa project started in 2008, and Alison, along with Victoria Steele and Lynn McGuigan, showed us how to shape enthusiasm into a coherent organization. She steered us through the complex process of incorporation, which was achieved in 2012. In a remarkably short time she persuaded the CRA to grant us charitable status. She was an Ottawa representative on the Board of PAL Canada, where she and Michael Namer made a valuable contribution in the development of Supporting Cast across the country.
Alison was a giver, a listener and a gatherer. She facilitated meetings with ease, handling contentious issues with grace and tact. In so doing, Alison demonstrated the unique ability of bringing out the best in people.
The last two years of her life were focused on caring for her father, a World War Two veteran, who moved to the Perley-Rideau Veterans Home in Ottawa, and by enjoying her daughter Kendra and her two grand-daughters. She never stopped thinking about, and caring for, others. We will miss her deeply.
Alison Atkins shares her love for PAL Ottawa at the Annual Members Meeting in 2018,
flanked by Jim McNabb (left) and Peter Haworth.