Canadian marketing legend Alan Middleton retiring from York University

Alan Middleton, one of Canada’s most renowned and respected marketing thought leaders, is retiring from York University’s Schulich School of Business after a two-decade career in academia.

But Middleton, a 2012 ACA Gold Medal winner and 2005 inductee into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends in the mentor category, says he doesn’t plan to step away from professional life entirely.

“It’s retirement from Schulich, but not other things,” he told The Message this week. Middleton’s LinkedIn profile lists him as “semi-retired” as of August, saying that he plans to write and offer “limited” consulting services.

More than 140 friends colleagues praised Middleton in an online guest book created for his retirement, noting his “generous spirit,” “mastery of advertising and marketing” and his legacy as a builder.

Trina McQueen, the onetime broadcast executive who now serves as the first Bell Media professor in media management at Schulich, described Middleton as the “spirit of Schulich: open, fearless, smart and always dedicated to excellence.”

Middleton has spent the past 19 years with Schulich, taking over as executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre in 2001. The SEEC trains more than 10,000 managers and executives both domestically and internationally. He was also a distinguished adjunct professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business.

Middleton began his career in academia following a 25-year career in advertising that saw him rise from an account manager with JWT London to president off its subsidiary Enterprise Advertising in Toronto and later president of JWT Japan, then the third largest agency in the global network.

He also consulted with a variety of blue-chip brands including  Bell Canada, Manulife Financial, Molson, Pfizer Warner-Lambert and Quaker Canada, and co-founded the Cassie Awards.

“Marketing requires discipline, creativity, and accountability,” he said during his 2005 induction into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends. “It is a tough blend to get right. We have too often seen creativity for its own sake with no impact on results, we have too often seen discipline overwhelm a creative spark, and very rarely has marketing accepted responsibility for measurable business results.”

With his booming voice and incisive assessments, Middleton has long been a favourite source for journalists covering the marketing industry. “I don’t know how many times I had to tell a journalist asking for some commentary that the best person to speak to about this is Alan,” said Schulich’s interim dean Detlev Zwick.

“Alan always delivered, too. What I have always valued and admired about Alan is that everything he did—teaching, running SEEC, media commentary, etc.—he did to benefit and support Schulich, his students and his colleagues and staff. He’s the epitome of a team player. I and Schulich will miss him greatly.”

Middleton’s impressive career also includes the 2015 Toronto Communicator of the Year Award from the International Association of Business Communicators, and the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award for services to literacy.

Chris Powell