Townships community mourns Tom Cavanagh

By Gordon Lambie

Tom Cavanagh, former Academic Dean of Champlain College in Lennoxville and longtime columnist for The Record, died on Tuesday at the age of 87. Although Cavanagh and his wife Rosemary have been living in a retirement home in Brockville, Ontario, for the last several years, the news still hit hard for several longtime colleagues and friends living in the Eastern Townships.
“He ranks number one of all the people I have ever known,” shared Jim Brodie, who worked alongside Cavanagh as Dean for close to 20 years. “He was fantastic.”
Brodie recalled his fellow dean as a renaissance man with an interest in everything
“He was curious, intellectual, and athletic,” he said “I can’t say enough about him, he was kind, he was humble; he put himself last, and he tried to do a good job.
The former dean was one of several The Record spoke with who noted Cavanagh’s habit of trying to look at all sides of an issue.
“I’ve never heard of anybody who didn’t like him,” said Don Atkinson. “He was extremely likeable because he was so open and interested in people.”
At Champlain, Atkinson said that he and Cavanagh were often on the opposite sides of discussions.
“Throughout it all, no matter how much disagreement there was between us in the workplace he was incredibly likable and we always got along very well,” he said. “There was never any dislike in our disagreements.”
A testament to that is the fact that Atkinson said, outside of work, he and Cavanagh would get together regularly to play music.
“We played a lot together, probably even three or four times a month,” Atkinson said, adding, “we spent probably as much if not more time talking than we did actually playing and singing.”
The retired teacher recalled many occasions playing alongside Cavanagh at family Christmas parties and for Saint-Patrick’s Day at the Argyle Pavilion.
Ultimately Atkinson turned back to his former boss’s innate likeability is his most defining trait.
“He was very interested in other people and a very good listener,” he said. “He was quite open minded about things too. You could talk to him about anything.”

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