We are greatly saddened to report that James Ellis “Jim” MacLennan, a founding member of Up with People’s leadership, passed away peacefully on November 27, 2019. Jim is survived by his loving wife Carol of 52 years, son Kent and daughter-in-law Jennifer, and beloved grandchildren Justin, Cameron and Alessandra. He is also survived by nieces and nephews David Currie, Jill Reeves, Craig Currie, Bruce Carlton Currie, Erik MacLennan and Kristina MacLennan.
Jim was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 26, 1931 to Finlay MacLennan and Grace Barr MacLennan. Jim was the oldest of their three children, with sister Francis and brother John having predeceased him. After living his early childhood in Detroit, Jim grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he graduated high school. During those years Jim spent several summers on his paternal grandfather’s farm in Lochalsh, Ontario, Canada which were formative experiences for him. Upon high school graduation in 1948, Jim left home to join the international organization Moral Re-Armament. This adventure took him all over the world with extensive stays in England, Italy and the Philippines, and shaped his worldview and commitment to build global understanding.
In 1964 Jim was part of a leadership group that organized the Conference for Tomorrow’s American on Mackinac Island, Michigan that led the following summer to Sing Out ’65 and the creation of the international educational and cultural organization Up with People. Jim held leadership positions throughout his career with Up with People including Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer where he played a central role in the growth and development of the program. In 1993, he organized the move of the Up with People international headquarters to the Denver area.
Upon his retirement in 1994, the board of the Up with People International Alumni Association renamed one of its achievement awards as The James E. MacLennan Everyday Hero Award, which continues to be presented annually. In naming the award after Jim, then President of the UWPIAA Paul Woidke, wrote, “For more than twenty-five years, the mission, the voyage, the experience we call Up with People has had a behind the scenes flight director. He was…seldom in the limelight, but his contributions to the growth and success of this program are unquestioned. He is, in fact the prototype of an Everyday Hero.”
Jim spent many happy years in retirement in Colorado and thrived in his role as a grandfather. One would find him regularly at myriad sporting events, piano recitals and school functions of his three grandchildren with a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.
A celebration of Jim’s life will take place at Arvada United Methodist Church in Arvada, Colorado on Saturday December 14th at 11:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, his family would request donations be made to the Up with People scholarship fund in his name (click here).