This year marks the 100 anniversary of the birth of one of Red Deer’s most prominent educators. G. Harold Dawe was born on June 4, 1910, in Guelph, Ont. However, he moved a few weeks later with his mother Helen and brother Wellington to Red Deer, where his father Robert had already established the new family home.
Harold took all of his early education in Red Deer until 1928, when his father’s sudden passing forced him to drop out of school. After working on a survey crew and with the post office, Harold decided to become a teacher.
Through the assistance of G.W. Smith, he was able to enrol in the Edmonton Normal School. He stayed with relatives, the Brownlees, which greatly helped with expenses.
He set out in the summer of 1930, the start of the Great Depression, to find his first teaching position. Fortunately, he was able to find a job at the Hillsdown School, a few kilometres east of Red Deer.
In 1936, Harold transferred to the Red Deer Public School District and remained there for 40 years. During this time, he became Red Deer’s first shop teacher. In 1940, he was made a vice-principal.
Harold interrupted his career in April 1942 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving as a bombing instructor. He returned from service in the fall of 1945 and attended the University of Alberta, where he obtained his bachelor of education degree with distinction in 1947.
In September 1947, he became the principal of Central Elementary School as well as serving as the supervising principal of all the elementary schools in the system. Meanwhile, he obtained his master of education degree and certificate in educational administration.
While at Central, he met a bright young schoolteacher, Jean Hodgkinson, who had previously taught at Edwell School east of Red Deer. While the two initially thought their romance was a secret, virtually all of the school children quickly caught on to what was happening.
The couple was married at Pine Lake on July 18, 1950. Jean continued to teach with the Red Deer (Rural) School Division at Balmoral Three (River Glen) and the Composite High School before she and Harold started a family with the birth of their son Robbin in 1953.
In 1954, Harold became the first superintendent of schools for the Red Deer Public School District and held that position until his retirement in 1976.
He also helped to found Red Deer College with Dr. Margaret Parsons in 1964. He served as the college’s first administrative officer and from 1978 to 1993, taught as a sessional instructor.
Harold always took a deep interest in community education. It was a great honour to him when Red Deer’s first community school and north side recreational complex was named after him in 1976.
In community affairs, Harold served as secretary-treasurer of the Red Deer Public Library Board for more than 30 years. He was a past president, life member and Paul Harris Fellow of the Red Deer Rotary Club. He served as chair of the Red Deer Police Commission. He was a charter member of Phi Delta Kappa, served on the Municipal Planning Commission and was an organizer of student exchange programs such as Young Voyageurs.
Harold was a life member of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta School Superintendents, U of A Alumni Association, Red Deer Public Library and Red Deer and District Museum Society.
Harold was awarded the Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Alberta Achievement Award in 1986 and the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal in 1993. In 1990, he was named Alberta Educator of the year by the Canadian Youth Educational Excellence organization and was named Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year. In 1992, he authored the book Schools At the Crossing.
Harold passed away in Red Deer on March 23, 1999, after a lengthy illness with Parkinson’s disease. He was predeceased by his wife Jean and his four brothers. He was survived by three children, Robbin, Michael and Dorothy.
— Michael Dawe