In Memoriam: James E. MacLennan, 1931-2019

Posted by Up with People on December 2, 2019

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).


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Topics: World Tour News

Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.

Comment On this Blog Below:


  1. What a wonderful man! Proud to have known him!! Thank you for this reminder of the Everyday Heroes on our world!!

  2. Jim was my first cast director – the first person to welcome a scared 15-year-old to cast C in 1967 on a journey that was to change and shape my life forever. Thanks will never be enough.

  3. From myself Tina Watson and Margaret Morton cousins of Jim from Ontario Canada send our love and thoughts to family and friends. I met Jim in 1988 and really enjoyed my time with him. We had many laughs and he always asked my mom (Margaret) about the pizza hut girl which was a prank phone call.

  4. I am so very sorry for your loss. Jim was always a warm and welcoming presence at the children’s events and in your home when I visited, Kent and Jenn. I know he will be missed by all but remembered with love and gratitude.

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