I first met Alan Thicke in the restaurant of the Trump (!) Hotel, a breakfast meeting with a senior colleague. I remember vividly our excitement at the meeting – my own sense of incredulity that I was actually going on the meeting, my curiosity about how he might act, my wonder that he wanted to be engaged with Arts and Humanities. Within minutes of being introduced, it became clear that any assumptions I had about our celebrity alumnus would need to be rethought. Don’t let Alan Thicke’s celebrity status fool you into thinking otherwise: he was “purple and proud” for more than 50 years.
Alan started university at 16, having skipped two grades, and he graduated – at age 20 -- from Western in 1967 (BA English). To the generation of people who watched television in the late 80s – many of them parents of current students – he will always be known as Dr. Jason Seaver from the huge hit show, Growing Pains. More recently, he came into our living rooms in cameo appearances on This is Us (2016), How I Met Your Mother (2011-12), and as a hockey and football commentator on ESPN (2015-16).
The Alan Thicke we knew in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities had the same warm and generous spirit that comes through onscreen. He was a champion of the value of hard work, storytelling, and wit, always ready to help his alma mater. He was so proud of his family, often putting their accomplishments before his own. Originally, he planned to follow the footsteps of his alumnus father, Dr. Brian Thicke (Meds ’56), into Medicine, but his gifts in communication, stage presence, and comedy quickly propelled him to a life in entertainment, first on CBC in Canada and then, most famously, in Los Angeles. Hearing Alan talk with his brother Todd Thicke, a fellow graduate of Western (BA English ’78), and his sister, Joanne Greer Thicke (BA Science ’77), makes it clear that the Thicke family – whatever their current zip code – is a Western family through and through. (Here’s more on Alan’s reflections on his Western experience.)
Since that initial meeting, over the last five years, Alan and I developed an easy, relaxed relationship. I am still astonished that I could email him – and he’d answer. I feel privileged that I shared time (and lots of jokes) with his wife, Tanya, and with his youngest son, Carter, and other members of the Thicke family.
In 2017, Alan Thicke would have celebrated his golden (50th) anniversary of graduating from Arts (English ‘67). Next year at Homecoming, he will be missed.
Do you have your own story about Alan? Maybe you played football together on University College hill? Maybe you took part in a Charity Ball that he hosted? Maybe your Western ties brought you together in Los Angeles? We’d love to hear your stories. Share your memories at firstname.lastname@example.org .