Dr. Tom MacLennan

January 3, 1937 - October 15, 2018
Dr. Tom MacLennan

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Dr. Tom MacLennan, an affable guy with a penchant for the hilarious anecdote, died October 15, 2018, as he had lived the last 20+ years – with his beloved wife beside him and his books within easy reach. He charmed all those who ventured into the hallways of UNCW’s English Department, and left behind a legacy of inspired students and admiring colleagues. He died in his adopted city of Wilmington, NC.

“He was a gentleman of the old school,” said his wife, Jane MacLennan. “He had a sense of romance and occasion. He believed in kissing my hand and sending surprise flowers for no reason other than he wanted me to have them. He was wonderfully generous with both his time and his heart.” He was also a consummate storyteller and believed that most people he met needed some cheering and encouragement. I can’t count how many conversations he started with, ‘Did you hear the one about…?’”

Tom was born January 3, 1937 in New York City.. His family moved to North Tanawanda, near Buffalo, New York, shortly thereafter. He never lost his sense that the city of snowdrifts, spicy wings and McKinley’s assassination on the eastern end of Lake Erie was one of the most wonderful places on Earth. And, as many Buffalo-ites, he was fiercely loyal to the Buffalo Bills, a heartbreaker of a franchise who proudly made it to four Super Bowls—and lost all of them. But as he said many times, “No matter what, your team is always your team!”

An entire room of their Wilmington home was devoted to the Bills, and Tom spent countless hours in his recliner, pumping fists, shouting, drinking beer and eating popcorn as he and his friends were, by turns, euphoric at a touchdown, devastated by a fumble or just plain irate at a bonehead play. The walls were covered with posters of quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Doug Flutie; shirts, pennants and caps in the red, white and blue team colors; and, of course, ice cold beer, of which Tom was a connoisseur. His favorite was Amstel Light because, as Tom used to say, laughing, “It’s so hoppy, it puts itself in my glass.”

“He loved spending time with his friends, and there were many times I could hear the laughing and man-stomping all the way outside,” said Jane. “He truly knew how to enjoy his life.”

He worked in various careers, including banking and insurance, before finally opting for a career in education. With characteristic perseverance, he, as a young father, worked his way from community college at night after work to an MA degree in English from Buffalo State University, and then, finally, an Ed.D from the University of Buffalo. He came South by way of Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in the early 1980s and finally, to UNC-Wilmington, where he served for a number of years as the director of the Writing Place and the Learning Center. His final stop was the English Department where he served as the English Education Coordinator for the remainder of his career.

He truly believed in the innate goodness and spirituality of all people and the expression of such through writing. He often discussed this with his wife, Jane, and also tried to live according to this philosophy. “This may sound odd,” said Jane, “but in 20+ years, I can’t remember his ever saying anything negative about another person. When I would begin to grumble, he would quickly point out the merits of the situation and/or person. I learned to change my attitude quickly! Tom was an exceptional and special human being—a truly good man.

Jane continued, “What I will miss most is not having anyone to talk to about –well, everything. We would talk for hours about the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh and Ken Wilber whom he read with great interest and with frequent vocalizations. I can still see him, sitting at the kitchen table, reading, nodding his head, and noting his impressions in the margins of his books. ”

“No one was ever as considerate of me as Tom,” said Jane. “No one will ever be my unequivocal advocate as he was. He was my best friend, and he was always in my corner, supporting me in every way. I will miss him for the rest of my life.”

Those who loved him and were loved by him include his wife, Jane MacLennan; his daughter, Jennifer Humphries and her husband Jeri Humphries and his son, Jeffery MacLennan and their mother, Martha MacLennan; his stepdaughters, Kephrin Kirby, Kristen Mattice and her husband, David Mattice, and Tom’s stepson, Cameron Kirby; three grandchildren, Michaela Proffitt, William Proffitt, and Maya Mattice; and many, many good friends.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Condolence” tab below.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation 1535 S. 41st Street Wilmington NC 28403  910.791.9099.

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  • October 18, 2018
    Charles and Helga Lewis says:
    Dr. Tom was a welcoming colleague at UNCW to both Charles and Helga Lewis. We are saddened to learn of his passing.

  • October 18, 2018
    Mary Ann Jones Morris lit a candle:
    Lit since October 18, 2018 at 10:50:27 PM

  • October 30, 2018
    Patrick Bizzaro says:
    I met Tom at a meeting of he Southeastern Writing Center Association when it was just getting started and I was writing center director at ECU. We drank a beer at the hotel bar and eventually found out, after about half an hour, that we were both from North Tonawanda. We called it "NT," as insiders often do and we both went to NTHS. He said he knew my sister, Mary Ann. When I asked her if she remembered Tom, she told me what a great guy he was. She could be tough on "intellectuals," but she said Tom was smart without having to show it off all the time. He is missed.