A Tribute to Ken Sturdy

The Alberta College of Art + Design community is deeply saddened by the passing of Ken Sturdy, faculty member in the 50’s and again in the 70’s, and former Head of the Alberta College of Art (ACA) from 1974-1982. Ken was a beloved member of the ACAD community and guided ACAD to become the influential institution it is today, through his vision, leadership and mentoring of students and staff over the years.

Reflecting on his passing, Dr Daniel Doz, President + CEO said, “Ken Sturdy has been instrumental in the evolution of our institution. His generosity and support to our unique mission and to our students will be anchored forever in our DNA.”

Photo: Ken Sturdy, 70th Anniversary of D-Day fundraising cover 2014

Many stories are being shared about Ken since his passing and here are a few of our favourites:

A very impressionable memory for me is when Ken Sturdy generously offered, and loaned me his wood carving tools when I was a 2nd year art student.  My early woodcarvings have his carving tool memory.  Ken was most generous and supportive of his students."

Katie Ohe, ACAD alumni, Lecturer Emeritus, and Honorary MFA Recipient, 2018

“Ken gave me my first job at ACAD in 1978. I have so many fond memories of him. He was a great spirit, fit, and loved a good time. At one point when he was living in Montreal, he lived across the street from Leonard Cohen, and he used to be invited to parties. He had lots of great stories like that. Opera music was a passion and he helped Calgary Opera in the early days, when ACAD students would help make the stage sets. He came to Calgary in 1950’s and worked with Illingworth Kerr and Stan Perrott. He only came for a year, and they offered him to stay on – he was planning to go on to New Zealand. We were very lucky to have him; he was a fine artist and a grand person. He never looked down on us and was kind and generous.

He suddenly turned up here again in Calgary a few years ago back from being retired in UK and it was miraculous - like Lazarus! I would visit him in the Colonel Belcher home and take him to the Esker Gallery. I took him to St. Mary’s Cathedral to see the statue of the Madonna that he helped Luke Lindoe make in the 1950’s. It’s still there outside the church. He was thrilled to see it again. Ken was a true pioneer of the Calgary art scene, he used to say, “The only culture in Calgary back when I arrived was agri-culture.”

Jack Rigaux, alumni + former faculty

Artwork: Lost in the Shadow, Ken Sturdy February 12, 2015, R. Brownlee Private Collection.

“Our friend, former SAIT Dean of Fine Arts, Barry Martin and his wife Lois Whitford, Printmaking instructor at ACA married and retired to Victoria. Vic and I became close friends with Barry and Lois Martin and we soon found out that Barry became a close friend of Ken Sturdy while Ken was head of the college.

In the early 2000’s  and in honour of Ken Sturdy’s visit to Victoria, Barry and Lois Martin hosted a mini ACA reunion for any alumni or former ACA students that were living out in Victoria and area.  My mother was in town visiting and she always liked meeting our artist friends and looked forward to meeting Ken Sturdy. Everyone was thrilled to be together at the Martin’s and having a chance to see Ken after many years.

During the ACA reunion I chatted with Ken and gave him a gift of two paintings of my Victoria Neighbourhood Series that I had reproduced into greeting cards. Ken thanked me very much for my kind gift of my art and looked at them carefully. Then he said, “I like this one the best” and graciously handed back the other card to me. Even though I did not have painting classes with Ken I knew by his comment, he would have been very candid with all his students.

During the party, I introduced my mother to Ken and he was instantly charmed by my mother. They enjoyed some lively conversation and I could see Ken was openly flirting with my mother. My mother, Vera Weaver, was a very creative person and was thrilled to have Ken’s attention. Like many, she enjoyed his British accent and wit. After the party for Ken, she commented what a nice man Ken was. If there were instructors and college heads like Ken, she figured the art school my brother Ross Weaver and I attended in the 1960’s and 1970’s was a pretty fine college indeed.

Ken was an amazing creative man and lively and inspired instructor and is well-known for his services to Queen and country. Ken will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”

Barbara Weaver-Bosson, Alumna 1974 (married to Victor Bosson, Alumnus 1974)

I thought that Ken was a lovely man. He was a gentle soul who was lots of fun. I remember many enjoyable hours spent in his company. We spent time with him doing theatre design, puppetry, making history of art project etc. all kinds of things that were not offered as classes at the time. Socially we had fun too. We all liked Ken; I never heard a bad word about him. So sorry to hear that he is gone."

From a Former Student

A Brief Biography on Ken Sturdy

Ken Sturdy at St Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary courtesy of Jack RigauxKen Study was a faculty member at the Provincial Institute of Technology + Art in the mid 1950’s and again in the 70’s, going on to become Head in 1974. Born in the UK in 1920, Sturdy grew up in a musical family in Hampstead, London. He enlisted in the British Navy in 1941, where he trained as a Signalman. He sailed on convoy for 15 months, and shortly after his twenty-second birthday in 1942, he married his first wife Mary during a 6-day leave. He took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, and in Operation Overlord the invasion of Normandy where he disembarked at Sword Beach.

A decorated veteran, after the war, Ken returned to England, briefly teaching in a village school. In 1946, he was accepted as an Arts and Crafts student at Loughborough University College of Art. Sturdy graduated top of his class with First Class Honours in 1949, and was immediately offered a junior lectureship in Loughborough’s visual arts faculty. After two years, he pursued further studies at the Chelsea School of Art in London, where he studied post-Impressionist painting technique. Graduating in 1953, that same year, Ken and his growing family immigrated to Canada, where he originally found work as an art advisor with the Ontario Department of Education. The following year he secured a one-year position at the Provincial Institute of Art and Technology (PITA, now SAIT) in Calgary, hired to fill in for Stanford Perrott who was going on sabbatical. As his contract ended, PITA offered him a full-time role. In 1962, he moved to Montreal where he became head of the art department of Dunton High. Eventually in 1966 with his new wife Una and their young family, sold up and moved to Britain. He taught at the Glasgow School of Art, wrote scripts for Scottish TV, and staged a production of The Crucible in Glasgow. The family bought a VW van and they travelled Europe extensively in 1967. Ken and his family eventually made their way back to Calgary, where Ken became Head of the Alberta College of Art (ACA) in 1974 – 1982.

In retirement back in the UK, Ken and Una trained as competitive ballroom dancers, and were gold medalists in 2001. After Una’s death, Ken eventually returned to Calgary for his final years to be closer to his children, where he gained viral media fame as a veteran of Dunkirk, after attending the Dunkirk screening in Calgary.

Ken passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on August 26, 2018 in Calgary at the age of 98. Wives Mary and Una, and his eldest son predeceased him. He is survived by five children.


  • Photo: Ken Sturdy with treasured VW van used for his family’s European adventure 1967.
  • Photo: Ken Sturdy, 70th Anniversary of D-Day fundraising cover 2014.
  • Artwork: Lost in the Shadow, Ken Sturdy February 12, 2015, R. Brownlee Private Collection.
  • Photo: Ken Sturdy at St Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary courtesy of Jack Rigaux.

Biography information and photos taken from Our Story: A Celebration of Life and Love: Ken & Una Sturdy. Published by Ken Sturdy © 2017