Gaylen Arthur Duncan
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Oct 13, 1946 to Mar 26, 2008

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March 28, 2008 - From the daughter of Fred Duncan - Gaylen's Dad's Brother

Dear John -
Just wanted to touch base with you to tell you how sorry I am to hear about Gaylen's death.
It is terribly difficult to lose a sibling so young - as I learned from my sister Ann's death ten years ago.
Know I am thinking about you and the family.
Love Cousin Betsy
Elizabeth S. Parker, Ph.D.
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Irvine, CA 92612
Hi Betsy,

Thank-you so much for your email.

This was what I call a "great" death. One that really hits home.

Perhaps the first great death in my life was your Dad's. He was very special to me and I did not expect or understand his early departure.

Ann was also a special person in my life. I often think about her. Actually, the last time I saw her was at my own Dad's funeral.

It is incredible to receive your email, and it is very meaningful to me.

It was just like Gaylen to spark a reconnection. He always wanted to bring the family together. His work on the family tree is an example of that.

Helene and I are leaving to fly to Toronto for the Memorial service. Thank-you for thinking about me and the family....

Love John, with Helene at my side

The people who work at ITAC count themselves among the many, many friends of Gaylen Duncan who are saddened by his death on March 26. Gaylen was our leader, serving as President and CEO of ITAC from 1995 to 2003. He was a true force in the information and communications technology industry and a visionary. He was a passionate advocate for technology and all its transformational possibilities. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and to all those in the ICT community who mourn his passing. We share that sense of loss.

A memorial service will be held at Eglinton St. George's United Church (35 Lytton Blvd.) on Sunday, March 30th at 2 p.m. Reception is to follow at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations to Eglinton St. George's United Church would be appreciated. - March 28, 2004

Dr. Gaylen A. Duncan (1948-2008)

Today’s Globe and Mail carried an announcement of the death of Gaylen Duncan, whom many Slaw readers will recall as the dynamic Executive Director of the Canadian Law Information Council.

He was a witty, passionate, charming, brilliant pioneer, schooled by Michael Kirby (still in Halifax then) in the dark arts of making things happen. CLIC brought together lawyers, librarians, publishers and government - Gaylen was skilled in making us all share in his vision of what might be possible in a world where legal practice was empowered by technology and universal access to legal information.

The history of CLIC has yet to be written, but the key figures who made the organization so effective for its times were Gordon F. Henderson QC, and Gaylen, who was the Executive Director during key years.

After CLIC, Gaylen went on to CHMC, and then for the seven years of the tech transformation he was President of the Information Technology Association of Canada. He was a member of the National Research Council’s Advisory Committee on the Industrial Research Assistance program, a member of the Round Table on E-Business Opportunities and co-chair of the Conference Board Advisory Council on Canadian Connections.

You can get a sense of Gaylen from some of his speeches.

His doctoral thesis was on Canadian business and economic implications of protecting computer program, made all the more remarkable for the fact that it had been written thirty years ago.

We hail him as a true pioneer. Our condolences to his family. The memorial service is on Sunday - details in the Globe.

Remarks given at Memorial Service
Tribute to My Brother, Gaylen Arthur Dunca
n - Jennifer Thompson

March 30, 2008 

I stand here today as a representative of Gaylen’s extended family, who are virtually by my side.  Grief, sorrow, anger, shock - we are experiencing all of these.  Arlene asked me to say a few words.  I hope to do well by my brother Gaylen today.   

How do you capture the essence of a person in a few minutes?  We humans are complex – and my brother Gaylen was no exception. 

If only we could open people up and examine their wiring, to see definitively what makes them work.   If we could, perhaps we would want to snip certain wires – the ones that lead to bad choices or unhappy outcomes.  Perhaps we would discover - those same wires also connect to wonderful qualities and good deeds.  Would it help if we could see the wires? 

When you love someone – you see their faults - but you love them still.   

If you needed help or to get something complex done - Gaylen was likely one of the first people you would call.  He loved to solve problems, to connect people, to make a difference.  And yet, he would not ask for or accept help himself 

Gaylen had a very high IQ – he was a life long learner.  He earned three university degrees and was constantly reading and connecting information.  He also loved to engage in intellectual debate.  And yet, he debated himself into thinking he did not need medical attention and counseling. 

He had demons – but that’s not who he was.   

Who was he?…. 

He was a young boy filled with love for his family.   When Jamie was born and came home from the hospital with Mom, Gaylen welcomed them home with a large sign on which he painted – Welcome Home Mom and JDD.  Unfortunately, he nailed it to the front door!   My Dad was furious! 

He was a skinny boy with lots of energy.   Gaylen weighed only 19 pounds at 2 years of age (Ok I wasn’t there, so this is what I have been told) – he had celiac.  With abundant energy, he was often up very early and would get out of his bed before my parents could wake up.  He’d go to the kitchen and eat the wrong foods – this, even when Mom put a bell on the bedroom door.  So it required careful negotiation to get him to stay in bed.  One particular time – it was Easter – Mom explained that if Gaylen stayed in bed until she came in to get him they would have hot cross buns for breakfast. ‘Why are we having hot cross buns?’  

‘Because it’s Easter.’  ‘What’s Easter?’,  he asked.  ‘It’s when Jesus rose from the dead.’ 

At 5:30 the next morning, my Mom realized she had not quite accomplished her goal.   She was lying in her bed and heard Gaylen speaking to the family next door – who were loading the car for a trip to visit family.  Gaylen was in his pj’s, with his clothes in his arms - asking them to please dress him because - ‘Jesus has risen and we’re having hot cross buns’. 

He was an adventurous young boy who wanted a 2 wheeler, although my Mom thought he needed to be older.  So he told her to wait on the front steps and then came around the corner peddling furiously on the front and one back wheel of his 3 wheeler, saying ‘Now will you get me a 2 wheeler???’ 

He was determined.  He thought he could fly, so for hours at a time, he would run across the lawn and launch himself into the air….now that I think of it, maybe he wasn’t such an intellect. 

He couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, but in our musical family he had to try his hand – so he played the autoharp – but not very well.   

As for sartorial elegance – well Gaylen was a contradiction.  On the one hand – gold cuff links and monogrammed shirts – on the other hand those plaid shirts, the shorts and of course, the socks. Watch the video later – you’ll see what I mean. 

He was a McGill graduate (like his grandfather, mother, father and Uncle Arthur) – extending to 3 generations the members of the Duncan family who graduated from McGill.  My parents were so proud of him when he graduated from McGill.   

He was a Deke – the same fraternity as his father, uncle and later, his son, Gaylen.  You have to know what pride my Dad had when Gaylen became a Deke. 

He was a person who made a difference in his business life – in the public and private sector.  He was strategic, creative, articulate, purposeful, and connected.  He was always networking and connecting people to ideas and to outcomes.  And he pushed the envelope….  

He had a sense of humor – he loved to joke about his name – Hi, I’m Gay.  And then there was the family favourite – the spoons.     

He was a loving family man – very affectionate.  He deeply loved his wife Arlene, their four children and the extended family of sons and daughters in law and grandchildren.    

In recent years, the demons played too large a role.  They took away his confidence and in the end, robbed Gaylen, and us, of so much.  So incredibly sad. 

In the last few days, the outpouring of love and messages of sorrow have been comforting to the family.  On behalf of Arlene and the entire family, I  want to thank everyone for their kind  thoughts, words and deeds.   

When our father died, almost 20 years ago, someone sent me a poem that I would like to share with you today.   It’s called The Plan of the Master Weaver.

"The Plan of the Master Weaver"
Author Unknown

Our lives are but fine weaving
That God and we prepare,
Each life becomes a fabric planned
And fashioned in His care.

We may not always see just how
The weaving intertwines,
But we must trust the Masters hand
And follow His design.

For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side,
While we must look from underneath
And trust in Him to guide.

Sometimes a strand of sorrow
Is added to His plan,
And though it's difficult for us,
We still must understand.

That it's He who fills the shuttle
It's He who knows what's best,
So we must weave in patience
And leave to Him the rest.

Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

And so, I say - we will all miss Gaylen terribly.  We pray he has now found peace.  May the many, many happy memories comfort all of us who are left to mourn.

                                        Eulogy for Gaylen Duncan - George Anderson
                                March 30, 2008

 We are gathered to commend and remember Gaylen Duncan who was lost to us this week. It is a hard loss to bear. Arlene tells me that the end, if it had to come, was mercifully quick. She also told me that he died quietly, to which I said, “Well, that’s the only thing in his life Gaylen ever did quietly ! ”  Boisterousness was one of Gaylen’s trademarks. 

In January, Gaylen and I made a trip to his beloved Georgeville in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, an area we both knew, although in my case not as well, from our formative days in Montreal.  It was an opportunity for me to see a place he loved and I quickly came to understand why he loved it. We renewed our bonds of friendship there and made plans to return this Spring. I will forever be grateful for that time we had together. 

I knew in the way in which people close to one another know these things that he was not well on that trip; in fact, he was struggling. But as hard as that memory is, that is not what I remember most about Gaylen that weekend, or throughout his too short life. What I remember is the spirit of a man who was intelligent, caring and compassionate towards others and who loved to laugh and be at the center of the action.

I first met Gaylen Duncan over 20 years ago when he came to work at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. He was already an accomplished public servant and he was to become a central figure in what was an amazing success story. He quickly became a trusted advisor and friend.

We went on from there to Central Guaranty Trust and to harder times. Gaylen took a gamble to come with me on that venture and it did not turn out as we all would have wished. But it was in the character of the man that he never  cast this up to me. In fact, in those dark days his thoughts were concentrated on the  well-being of those around him. That was typical of Gaylen.

His last jobs were as President of the Information Technology Association of Canada, where he had a pivotal role in the worldwide preparations for Y2K, and as a private consultant to the Government of Vietnam.

During this time, I nominated him for the Distinguished Leader award from St. Francis Xavier University. He gave an acceptance  speech that day about the humanitarian uses of technology that was without question the best of the whole series. It was full of insight and delightful story-telling.

He was transformed on stage into an animated Augustus John portrait, the brush work rough and active and loose, the colours clashing and a bit wild. And that was just his shirt and tie!  

Many of the people in the audience still talk about that speech. His brimming intelligence and force of personality were never more on display than on that memorable day.  

Gaylen was of Scottish ancestry, a fact that to my mind he did not advertise enough. That was perhaps because he was more so a proud Canadian. He was also a United Churchman who gave freely of his time to church activities. And here, as everywhere, he showed those virtues to which Scots and United Churchmen aspire; leadership, loyalty, gallantry, and solicitude for his family, especially solicitude for his family. 

Because if ever a man was in love with a woman, it was Gaylen with Arlene. This and his tender caring for his children, Gaylen Jr., Krista, Meghan and Robert, were the central features of his life  He drew great joy from being part of a large family. He even had time to know the joys of being a grandparent to Avery, Taylor and Graydon. These were his blessings.  

And so, as one who knew him well and was proud to call him “friend”, I say to his family  that were he here with us today he would say to you: 

“My dear family, I am not gone. I have only slipped away into the next room. Whatever we were to each other we still are. It is the same as ever. There is an unbroken continuity between us that survives as long as you have memory of me. Remember, I am waiting for you somewhere near. All will be well”

Article being submitted to Globe and Mail written by George Anderson

Lives Lived: 

Gaylen Arthur Duncan. Born in Toronto, October 13, 1946 and died in Toronto of a heart attack on March 26, 2008. 61 years old.

Public Servant, Perpetual Learner, Bon Vivant, and Aspiring Aviator 

Family members say that when Gaylen was growing up in the fifties he thought he could fly. He spent days trying to perfect his technique. To his chagrin, he did not succeed. But throughout his life he did manage to soar above the rest of us through the power of his personality and his intellect.  

His academic accomplishments were as impressive as they were eclectic.  He was the third generation of the Duncan clan to earn a McGill degree. He went on to get a law degree from Dalhousie University in 1970.  He completed his academic hat trick by receiving a PhD from the University of Texas in 1974. His thesis was about the problems new technology posed for intellectual property rights. He was far ahead of his time in contemplating this problem and he stayed far head on issues of interest to him all his life. 

Gaylen loved to be at the centre of the action and his varied career reflected this fact. Not one to be content with the confines of a traditional law practice, he applied his talents to other jobs where a lawyer’s training was useful. He worked at the Nova Scotia Public Utilities Commission and then went to Ottawa to set up the Canadian Law Information Council in 1978. In Ottawa, he caught the public service bug and subsequently served as Assistant Comptroller General for Canada and as Senior Vice-President at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). He was a key part of the team when CMHC was selected as one of the top 100 companies to work for in Canada. His penultimate job was as President of the Information Technology Association of Canada. This was during the build-up to Y2K and Gaylen played a pivotal role in helping Canadian business and government prepare for that event. His problem-solving abilities and his talent in seeing how different parts of a problem fit into the larger picture were very much in demand. His last job was as a consultant to the Government of Vietnam where once again he was on the frontiers of technology development.

For all his seniority he remained a democrat where people were concerned. He greeted each new acquaintance with an egalitarian spirit and teasing wit that delighted those who felt not quite up to his level as much as it unnerved those who felt more deference was due their exalted positions. You had to be able to have a good laugh at your own expense to be with Gaylen. A few had trouble with that. Those who persevered learned a lot from him. 

He received the distinguished leader award from the business school at St Francis Xavier University in 2000. In his acceptance speech, he returned again to the subject of technology with an emphasis this time on humanitarian applications in remote third-world villages where diagnoses and treatment are often just not available. His remarks were full of humanitarian insight and delightful story-telling. This was Gaylen at his best. Many people in the audience still talk about that speech. His brimming intelligence and force of personality were never more on display than on that memorable day.

Above everything else in life stood his family and his church. He deeply loved his wife Arlene who for forty years stood by his side giving him courage and support. His tender caring for his four children, Gaylen Jr.,  Krista, Meghan and Robert was always on display. These, and a profound sense of justice and fairness, were the true pillars of his faith in life.  

Towards the end that faith was severely tested. His health which he took for granted faltered under the strain of diabetes. He kept up a cheerful outward appearance but it was clear that his spirits were often depressed. In spite of these troubles, at his country home in Georgeville in the Eastern Townships of Quebec a few weeks before he died, his intellect, wit and old gentleness still shone through in conversation and reminiscence. He was briefly energized by being in a place he loved. It was as if he were the young Gaylen still trying to fly. 

Submitted by George Anderson, colleague and friend of Gaylen Duncan

Published in the Ottawa Citizen

  March 30, 2008
  Please know you are all in my heart and thoughts in this very difficult time. My deepest sympathy.
   Alison Ryan (Brackenbury) (Barrhaven, ON)

   March 29, 2008
  I had the GREAT pleasure working with Gaylen at CMHC in Ottawa many years ago and am very sad to hear of his passing.
He will be missed.
   Gordon Barbeau (Ottawa, ON)

   March 28, 2008
  Gay was such a wonderful friend. We have many happy memories of our times together on Tripp Crescent – our many impromptu family dinners, get togethers for tea (and, if memory serves, the odd glass of wine!) and discussions about anything and everything long into the night. That our friendship has remained despite living in different cities is a tribute to the importance of your family in our lives. Such friendships are rare and we’ll treasure them forever. It’s hard to imagine that both Gay and Gord are gone so soon and so close together. Our hearts go out to all of you.
   Suzanne Swan (Ottawa, ON)
Contact me

   March 28, 2008
  Dear Arlene and family:

We extend our deepest sympathy to you all, in the loss of Gaylen.

About 27 years ago, when we moved into 80 Tripp Crescent, it was Gaylen who first came ringing our doorbell, to welcome us into the neighborhood, and we have had many enjoyable dinners and get togethers with your family during the years that we lived there.

We remember him as being warm, friendly, helpful, kind and happy, and we will keep on remembering him that way.

You are in prayers and in our thoughts.
   Tony & Dianna Pierre and Family (Ottawa, Ontario)

   March 28, 2008
  Our deepest sympathies Arlene and family, we have wonderful memories and thoughts of a beautiful, enthusiast man. If we all had his love of life, this would be a better world.
   Tom & Marlene Miller (Barrhaven, ON)


ITCanada World Blog - Article by Shane Schick - April 2008.

Former ITAC chief Gaylen Duncan remembered

duncan-gaylen-120.jpgIt was only by chance I learned that Gaylen Duncan, a long-time champion of the Canadian IT industry, had died recently. A notice appeared on the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) site, where he had been president in the late 80s. Although it’s been a couple of years since we spoke, seeing his name made me realize how much I miss his presence as a spokesperson for technology professionals across this country.

Although he played a number of roles at CIPS, I knew Gaylen through his eight-year tenure with the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). He was the person we turned to when we needed to get the pulse of the vendor community, and in some cases the customer community as well. He held strong opinions and was eager to share them, which is invaluable in an industry that often favours more polite exchanges. As far back as 2000, when the world was giddy with the prospects of the dot-com revolution, he and ITAC put out a warning about cybercrime, which was directed at a G-8 security conference being held in Paris.

“We need to make haste . . . if you’re going to fight Internet crime, you’re going to have to move in Internet time,” he said. “We can’t hope to address the crimes of cyberspace at the leisurely pace set for most international negotiations.” Unfortunately, I don’t think enough government took heed of his call. Gaylen was also an outspoken critic of Canada’s innovation strategies, the need for more skilled employees and overall productivity challenges. Such advocacy is a difficult job, but he had the authority, the energy and the commitment to show true leadership for his members and colleagues.

It occurs to me now that Gaylen bore witness to a unique period in the technology sector – a spectacular rise in the valuation of high-tech companies and the subsequent drop in IT spending. He saw the biggest acquisition in the industry’s history, between HP and Compaq, and the rise of major new vendors such as Google and Wireless took off, and utility computing slowly started to emerge. His career spanned a dramatic series of changes. His gradual move away from the limelight coincided with the beginnings of Web 2.0 and the blurring of consumer and commercial technologies. No wonder, as this era was beginning, his departure seemed like another had ended.

When Gaylen stepped down from ITAC in 2003, I wondered what on Earth the association would do without him. They must have wondered the same thing: after a hiccup period with former Oracle Canada chief Bill Bergan at the helm, ITAC eventually found an able successor in Bernard Courtois. Gaylen said he would, like many CIOs and senior technology professionals, move back into consulting. His firm had no Web site that I knew of, but it had a great name, Second Step. He knew better than most that it’s easy to take the first step. Making progress means having the wherewithal to keep on moving.


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