Continuing Education + Job Training // Publishing since 1999

Anne McDonagh

By WENDY TERRY - October 5 2022
Anne McDonagh

March 27, 1939 – August 19, 2022

Anne spent the 25 years of her retirement founding the University in the Community program and editing and developing Learning Curves. She also took on being Vice President of the Workers’ Educational Association who founded and developed University in the Community and published Learning Curves. 

All this despite dealing with Parkinson’s disease.

In her work for UitC, Anne formed key partnerships with people such as Professor Peter Russell (in photo above.) Their alliance led to securing funding from U of T for UitC.

In a “100 Year WEA Retrospective” article in the Spring 2018 issue of Learning Curves (pgs. 16-17) the roots of the WEA in the coop movement and university liberal arts studies for working people are documented and supported by three charts: a 100 year chart of The WEA of Canada activities, a listing of Historical Resources; and the Growth of WEA’s in other countries and their contacts today. See for back issues of Learning Curves. 

Anne first got involved with the WEA of Canada as the Coordinator for a project to look at the possibility of refounding a WEA liberal arts program in cooperation with the Ontario Cooperative Association funded by the Atkinson Foundation. A couple of years later in 2003 the WEA launched University in the Community. Anne was a member of the Board of Directors of Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre where the Executive Director, Keith McNair, took up this project for the members of the Centre and secured Trillium funding in two three year terms. Anne reached out to the University
of Toronto through Woodsworth College to find
J. Barbara Rose who had actually taught for the WEA in Australia. Woodsworth College became a partner, securing professors for the courses for over 10 years. 

It should be noted that the WEA had been formed on April 29, 1918 in partnership with the 

Extension Department of the University of Toronto. They had been partners till the late 1950’s early 1960’s but now a new partnership was being set up.

Anne secured funding from the Morrow Foundation to bridge between the two Trillium grants and then secured two consecutive grants form the Catherine Donnelly Foundation to get University in the Community to its 10th anniversary in 2013 and beyond. 

In the Summer 2014 issue of Learning Curves (pg. 9) there is a picture collage of those attending this 10th anniversary celebration at Innis College on April 24, 2013, See for back issues. Second from the left on the top of this collage is picture of Joanne Mackay-Bennett and Louise (Patsy) Bruff.

With the decline in Anne’s health, she needed help coordinating UitC. To Anne’s delight, Joanne Mackay-Bennett took on the role of coordinator and ten years later, remains in that position. 

Patsy is a UitC student to this day and has been since the first class at Davenport-Perth. She recently self published a book titled Every New Day Lies Within a Battle Field. She is a member of the WEA Board of Directors as are two other students. 

Anne also took on being Editor of Learning Curves for 14 years following on Karen Ferguson who was the founding editor. The second objective in the WEA of Canada constitution is to provide information for adults going back to school in Toronto and the GTA. Our fist issue of Learning Curves was published in January 1999 and we had a 100th issue party on October 20th, 2018 at Saint Luke’s where the WEA had their office since 1999 to 2021. In the winter 2018 edition of Learning Curves (pgs 10-1) is a collage of pictures from this event. In the bottom left corner of page 10 is a picture of Anne with her daughter Sarah and Andrew who would become President of the WEA that evening at the AGM following the Celebrating 100 event. Sarah, a CPA, has done our books for many years. Deborah Visconti became the next Editor of Learning Curves given Anne’s declining health. 

Take a look at the website where issues go back to 2010 and the Winter 2018 issue is posted. 

Anne became Vice-President of the WEA in the early 2000’s till her passing August 19, 2022. Organizations like the WEA that run on a coop model depend on members to contribute to the running of the organization and its leadership. So taking on a position on the Board of Directors is key which Anne did. 

In the picture of Anne at the 100th issue celebration I noted that Andrew was to take on the role of President that night. He has also been the designer of Learning Curves since the early 2000s when he was a GBC student. He more than designed, he helped to develop Learning Curves along with Anne and Bryan Wright who sold ads from almost day one to a few years or so before his (Bryan’s) passing in March 2014. Have a look at Anne’s memorial to Bryan in the summer 2014 issue of Learning Curves (page 7). See Before every issue they would meet at Tim’s on Bloor near Spadina and go over the current draft. From the ideas of Anne, Andrew and Bryan Learning Curves grew and still exists today. 

I expect Bryan and Anne are up there having chats. 

Joanne secured another 3 years of funding for UitC from the Faculty of Arts and Science at UofT. 

Anne thank you so much for all you gave to WEA, University in the Community and Learning Curves. So many learners have benefitted from your dedication to adult learning as did all who worked with you.

Rest in peace,

Wendy Terry, WEA Board Secretary 

If you, or anyone you know, would like to join our Fall program at UitC, please get in touch! Our email is:

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