In Tribute: Michael Noon

Former Roundhouse Society Board Director and Advisory Council member, Michael Noon.

20 June, 1937 – 22 January, 2019

“Order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction.” – Kenneth Clark

Michael Noon, a beloved member of the Roundhouse Society’s Board from December 2008 until January 2013, and then of the Society’s Advisory Council until 2015, passed away peacefully early in 2019. He was kept company by close friends, who were remarkable in their love and care of him, and were by his side at the end. We, at the Roundhouse, feel the loss of this lovely man who was such a bright light in the Vancouver arts community.

In 1966, Michael arrived in Toronto, Canada from Manchester, England where he trained as an architect with a special interest in theatre design. He spent many years in Ontario working with post-secondary institutions, then as the Executive Director, Cultural Affairs for the Ontario government, and finally General Manager for the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. He was invited to Vancouver, becoming the founding Managing Director for the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (1995-2002). Significantly involved in all stages of the facility’s architectural design, he then went on to establish its world- renowned programming. He joyfully explored and supported his new West Coast community, serving on many arts and culture boards and organizations across the city.

Upon starting with the Roundhouse Board, Michael immediately, and enthusiastically, joined a variety of committees: finance, programming, governance, and recruitment, often acting as Secretary when needed. Eventually, he joined the Executive as 1st Vice President in January 2012, and then spent a few months as President before stepping down due to his many other commitments. With his exceptional skills as an architect and project manager, and his incomparable programming expertise, he was a passionate promotor of the Roundhouse’s mission to provide an inclusive, educational, and welcoming space for all. A great believer in empowering people to achieve their very best, and with an intuitive eye for recognizing talent and drive, he purposely fostered connections, allowing the people around him to fulfill their untapped potential.

Michael had a knack for names and always greeted Roundhouse staff by name, falling easily into conversation about upcoming and past events. He was interested in how people were connecting to the Centre—how their experience could be improved. He loved the sense of community, the innovative programming, the breadth of activities available, and readily supported the risks that Roundhouse programmers take. He was a tireless proponent for the arts at the Roundhouse and a champion of the many arts programs and events. Close friend, Wendy Soobis, and former Board member, remembers him for his sharpest of minds, his insatiable curiosity, his notable and contagious laugh, and his extraordinary generosity and kind- ness. She also recalls his quirky Gemini predilection for symmetry–he preferred objects as sets of two, particularly lamps.

When it came time to work on the contentious Joint Operating Agreement with the Vancouver Park Board, Michael wrote a persuasive letter, which was instrumental in opening up communications and starting the negotiations in good faith, shepherding the initial process. His experience in government, coupled with his diplomacy and communication skills, was the foundation for the Roundhouse’s leadership in the discussions.

Fellow Advisory Council member and Roundhouse Story Project Chair, Ingrid Alderson, writes: One role Michael accepted was that of the Board’s representative on the Roundhouse Story Project committee. The goal of the project was to create digital vignettes, describing the Roundhouse as a community hub—from its industrial railway roots to its current role as a unique community arts and recreation centre, and a leader in community cultural development. Michael was a very supportive advo- cate, and the project continued to receive generous funding from the Board until the four-video series was completed in 2013.

Kathleen Laverty, Michael’s dear friend and fellow Board member, remembers this quotation displayed in Michael’s welcom- ing home. To her, the closing words from Kenneth Clark’s final film of the Civilisation series encapsulate the way he chose to live his rich life.

“I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole, I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that, in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven’t changed much in the last 2,000 years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves…and I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their existence possible.”

With contributions from Wendy Soobis, Kathleen Laverty, Ingrid Alderson, Percy Nacario, Marie Lopes, and Hanne Lene Dalgleish.


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