Allan Colter

Dr. Allan Colter

Thursday, March 14th, 1929 - Saturday, July 20th, 2019
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Allan Kennedy Colter passed away peacefully at St. Joseph’s Health Centre on July
20, 2019. He lived a full and happy life, passing away in his 91st year.

He was born in Edmonton, Alberta on March 14, 1929, and from an early age, Allan’s
passion for knowledge, music and family, were clear to all who knew him. He obtained
his B.Sc at the University of Alberta, PhD in Chemistry at University of California,
Los Angeles, and completed Post Doctoral work at Harvard.

He taught at Carnegie Tech (later to become Carnegie Mellon University) for 11
years. While on sabbatical at Brandeis University, the growing University of Guelph
sought Dr. Colter to lead the Chemistry department as chairman. He remained at the
University of Guelph until his retirement in 1994.

Allan was an accomplished Jazz musician, and enjoyed playing the trumpet and coronet
in numerous traditional Jazz bands throughout his life. His music history knowledge
of this genre was unmatched.

Allan will be remembered for his curiosity, his desire to continuously learn and
develop himself, and the support he provided to people he loved. He had a positive
influence on those fortunate enough to be blessed by his friendship, including his
students, his family and friends.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 64 years, Barbara Colter (Benson) and children
Dave (Jan), Mary (Geoff) and Lonnie (Roxanne). He was a loving grandfather to
Rebecca, Sarah, Dillon, Emma and Aaron, and great grandfather to Hannah and Alyssa.

Forever in our hearts, we will remember Allan offering song lyrics to illustrate any
point, warm bearhugs and exceptionally detailed stories of road trips, fishing,
camping and his beloved vegetable garden

A celebration of life will be held at the Arboretum in Guelph (390 College Avenue East) on Friday, September 6th from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. All are welcome to share memories and stories.
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  • Celebration of Life

    Friday, September 6th, 2019 | 1:30pm
    Friday, September 6th, 2019 1:30pm
    The Arboretum
    390 College Ave. E.
    Guelph, ON
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    A celebration of life will be held at the Arboretum in Guelph (390 College Avenue East) on Friday, September 6th from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. All are welcome to share memories and stories.


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Roy Maxwell

Posted at 12:04am
I am so sorry to hear of Allan's passing last year.

I know little about chemistry, but one of my life's great thrills was playing drums in the John Hems Jazz Quartet with Allan, Pat Luciani and, of course, John Hems. Many of our practice sessions were in the Colter basement. (Thank you Mrs. Colter).

I played with those guys as a young agriculture student from age 20 to 23, and now at the age of 69, I look back on those days with the fondest of memories. John and Allan are both gone, and I don't know about Pat, who was a grad student at the time. But, what is not gone is a taped recording of much of the band's performance one hot summer's night in the U of G Bullring when we played to a packed house. Because it was on a Sunday, only coffee was served, except for a mickey of scotch that Hems had stashed away in his guitar case. I think John and I were the only ones to tuck into that a wee bit. I had a drum solo scheduled for the beginning of the second set, so a nip of Hem's scotch was just what the doctor ordered.

I would not trade that marvelous evening for anything. We got off to a slow start. I don't think the audience knew it, but we did. It's like a 6th sense that musicians have. But by the end of the evening (night), we were playing encores to a very excited audience. We clicked that night and that is how I will always remember Allan Colter, John Hems and Pat Luciani.

There is something about jazz music that always remembers musicians, but forgets about time. Allan was a beautiful player and one heck of a nice man. I am glad his life was so long and happy and I feel very fortunate to have been a small part of it.

Roy Maxwell

John DeCorso

Posted at 12:36pm
Very sorry to learn of Dr. Colter's passing. My condolences to the Colter family.
-John DeCorso

Carrie Tanti

Posted at 10:56am
My deepest sympathies to the family. You once lived right beside us and then had that wonderful home built across the street. My brother, Brian, friends with your son, Lonnie. Dr. Colter (and family) was one of the most respected people I knew in the neighborhood and I am well aware of the positive impact you had at the University of Guelph. I now work in the same college as you did back then. May the wonderful memories of you bring your family and friends comfort. Carrie Tanti

Michael Organ

Posted at 11:33am
Professor Colter was one of the most important guiding forces on the development of my academic career – though he probably never realized just how important he was - he was just 'doing his job'. He thought about things at a very deep and fundamental level – a function of his own training (PhD and PDF) and his nature. It only came to me later in my own career as a professor why the level of depth at which he taught was necessary – because that is what physical science really is. It is not superficial. I have had a number of recognized accomplishments in my field, which were attributed to the level of rigor that I approach fundamental science with. This was learned in his classroom and on my PhD supervisory committee when I went to him for advice.

“You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need”

I feel compelled to get a musical ‘note’ in here given Al’s prominence as a musician. While the Rolling Stones may not have been Al’s first choice, these words above are carefully chosen.

I shared a story with Al and Barbara when I visited him a couple of weeks back that made us all laugh. Shelley and I were married during the fall term of my grad degree when I was taking his course. I went to see Professor Colter about my wife’s desire for a Honeymoon, which was exactly at the same time as his final. Thinking that the request was reasonable as we had booked everything more than a year in advance, I asked if I could write it at a different time. He said, “Well Mike, you have a choice, you can write the final or go on a honeymoon.” Professor Colter did not do what was easy, and he did not necessarily do what was hard – he did what was right. In advanced classes it is almost impossible to make two exams of equal difficulty, and there is also the concern of talk. There is a valuable lesson in here for millennials. There is not always a “right answer”. There can be multiple correct answers. Sometimes no one is wrong, but still a decision has to be made where one side will not get what they want.

Maybe he greatest lesson for me was not in the classroom after all.

Michael Organ,
University of Ottawa


Heartfelt Sympathies Store

Posted at 05:09pm
Dear Barbara, we are so sorry to hear about Allan, and send our sincerest condolences to you and your family. Love from Kirsten, Ted, Em, & Eli
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