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It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the death of John “Jack” McConnell, a professor of atmospheric science who provided more than 40 years of leadership to the Faculty of Science and the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering. Jack had been ill since March and he passed away peacefully at home on July 29, surrounded by his family, with Irish music playing.
Born Sept. 11, 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Margaret M. and John D. McConnell, Jack graduated from Queen’s University in Belfast and began his career at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., where he became involved with NASA’s Voyager mission. He went on to do research at Harvard, working with Michael McElroy, and arrived at York University in the 1970s.
An outstanding chemical-dynamical modeller internationally since the mid-’70s, Jack was extremely dedicated to his work. He cooperated extensively with Environment Canada during the period when the Stratoprobe balloons were being flown in the ’70s and ’80s, aimed at understanding the potential impacts of supersonic aircraft and chlorofluorocarbons (Freon) on the upper atmosphere. During his career, Jack made leading contributions to understanding stratospheric chemistry, tropospheric chemistry and the atmospheric chemistry on Mars. His list of publications stretches beyond 150, and he received numerous honours and awards over the course of his career, including being a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Jack was well-loved and respected by those who knew him, for his humility, passion for science and unwavering work ethic. He inspired hundreds of students during the course of his career and he graduated more than 50 PhD students whose theses sit proudly on the bookshelf above his desk. One of his more recent undergraduate students commented that Jack truly believed in giving back to his community: “He told us (his students) that now that we had gained this knowledge, it was important that we share it with others to build better communities.”
Even as ill as he was leading up to his passing, he continually inquired about his students to ensure they were being well looked after in his absence.
Jack also had an active life outside of work. He was active in sports, including squash, Celtic dancing and crewing on a racing boat. Jack was also passionate about his family, as demonstrated by the numerous framed family photos that cover his desk from one end to the other and his son’s paintings proudly displayed on his wall. Jack will be sorely missed by his wife Joan Sinclair, children Deirdre (Christopher) Timusk, Alison (Tarmo) and Andrew McConnell, and his grandchildren Lukas and Matti Timusk.
Jack’s influence can be felt here on campus as well as nationally and internationally, and his accomplishments will have a significant impact for many years to come.
A visitation was held at Turner & Porter Funeral Home at 2357 Bloor St. W. in Toronto on Wednesday, July 31. The funeral will be held Friday, Aug. 2 at 11am, at All Saints’ Kingsway Anglican Church at the corner of Prince Edward Drive and Bloor Street West. In lieu of flowers, and to honour Jack, the family has set up the John “Jack” C. McConnell Memorial Bursary at York University to benefit students enrolled in the Earth and Atmospheric Science program.
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2013, 45, 025