U of A community mourns tireless volunteer

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta community is mourning the passing of a tireless volunteer and supporter whose vigour for education was matched in scale only by her laugh, say those who knew her. Long-time university friend and arts advocate Margaret Andrekson died March 10. She was 83.

Born in Edmonton in 1927, Andrekson, nee Weir, started at the U of A in 1946 and received a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1949. Six months after graduating, she married her university sweetheart Alexander Andrekson, who went onto become a well-known judge in Alberta.

Despite raising five children, Andrekson had an unparalleled dedication to Edmonton, and particularly the U of A, focusing her energy and attention on the arts, education, social welfare and health. For more than 50 years, Andrekson gave unselfishly of her time to various boards and organizations, including the Edmonton Symphony Society, both the University of Alberta’s senate and board of governors, the U of A Hospital, as well as in varying capacities to the university’s Faculty of Arts.

Pat Clements, former dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1989–99, remembers Andrekson’s commitment to the faculty in countless roles, from fund development to advisor.

“Margaret was very lively with a wonderful sense of humour and a light touch,” remembers Clements. “I think she, along with her husband, believed deeply in education. I believe they had a deep commitment to making things better through education.”

In 1984, Andrekson co-founded the Friends of the U of A Museums with Helen Collinson. Andrekson and her husband, until his death in 1997, spent their time raising public awareness of what she considered “Edmonton's best-kept secret—the university's outstanding, and in some cases world-renowned, collections.”

The Andreksons made it one of their missions to champion the U of A arts collection, donating more than 100 works of art to the cause, including a Group of Seven oil painting by Lawren Harris entitled, “Robertson Bay, Greenland.”

“Margaret will always be remembered in my heart as a gracious, but always formidable, advocate for the arts and the importance of volunteers in our society," said Janine Andrews, executive director of U of A Museums and Archives. "She is one of the university’s and Edmonton’s true heroes.”

An undeniable community builder, Andrekson received many honours, including being named a member of the Order of Canada in 1996 and receiving the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. She was given an honorary degree from the U of A in 1987, and has a scholarship in art history at the U of A named in her honour. In 2007, Andrekson was inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame.

While accolades for Andrekson seemed to pour out of every sector of Edmonton life, they all seemed to all lead back to the U of A. She once said of the university, “each part of the community—the public of Edmonton and the U of A—should understand and appreciate the other.”

A memorial service for Andrekson is scheduled for March 15 at 1 p.m. at Robertson-Wesley United Church.