'He just connected with everyone': Jack MacKenzie, educator and mentor, dead at 90

Jack MacKenzie, a long time educator and prominent figure in Regina, has died at the age of 90.

Namesake of Jack MacKenzie Elementary School died Wednesday at 90 years old

Jack MacKenzie is the namesake behind Jack MacKenzie Elementary School in Regina. He died on Wednesday at the age of 90. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Jack MacKenzie did not marry and he had no children, but those who knew him said the former teacher was known as a father and grandfather figure to many students.

The namesake behind Jack MacKenzie Elementary School in Regina died on Wednesday at the age of 90. He left an everlasting legacy, according to friends and family.

"Uncle Jack sort of had hundreds of children every year, and his family was that school," Susan MacKenzie, Jack's niece, said on Thursday.

"He dedicated his life to the education of children."

Any time the school or its students — pupils, as he would refer to them — were mentioned, MacKenzie's eyes would light up, according to Wendy MacKenzie, Susan's sister. 
MacKenzie was born in Manitoba but had been living in Saskatchewan for decades. (Jack MacKenzie Elementary School)

"They could bring him out of anything. It was his joy," Wendy said.

Although MacKenzie was born in Manitoba and travelled the world, he had called Saskatchewan home for decades. It was where he taught in several schools over the years. His nieces remained in Manitoba and Susan said she was never allowed to mention the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when she would visit.

Susan said MacKenzie was larger than life, standing 6'4 with a size-14 shoe. He was an avid believer in education, fitness, the outdoors, random acts of kindness and the joy of effort for students in all areas of schooling.

MacKenzie filmed projects with National Geographic, travelled the world and had six total university degrees from places like the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto, among others, Susan said. He also had an honourary degree from the University of Regina.

He was also one of the people behind the Saskairie, an outdoor and environmental learning centre located near Moose Mountain Provincial Park.

Saskairie is a place where Nick Forsberg takes students twice a year during the fall and winter.

Forsberg is a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Regina. He was also a close friend of MacKenzie's for the last 35 years.

Students and school groups at Saskairie could immerse themselves in the natural environment, Forsberg said.

Nick Forsberg takes students to Saskairie twice a year, during the fall and winter. (Saskairie)

"I would call him probably, for sure, a mentor — if not even a touchstone for our students," Forsberg said. 

The biggest thing about MacKenzie that Forsberg remembers is his humility. Forsberg said MacKenzie was a man who, "did such fantastic work yet never wanted to be at the front and centre of it."

For Wendy, he was personable, interesting, someone you could fall in love with right away. For Susan, MacKenzie was "community property," for lack of a better term.

"He just connected with everyone," Susan said.

"We've lost a true leader, a true educator and a fantastic individual," Forsberg said.