Ex-glider pilot and education pioneer dies

Ex-professor and glider pilot from Upwell dies

Hubert Dennis Young was born in Upwell near Wisbech and was a glider pilot before studying painting in London, when his interest for art was prompted. - Credit: Supplied/Lorelei Horne

A former glider pilot from the Fens who made an imprint both at home and abroad in art education has died at the age of 92. 

Hubert Dennis Young was born in Upwell near Wisbech on October 1, 1928 and grew up when his father, Hubert Leslie, was a master bricklayer before becoming president of the English Lawn Bowling Federation. 

Having attended the village primary school, Mr Young gained a special scholarship to Wisbech Grammar School. 

In 1946, he joined the Air Training Corps and gained a glider pilot’s A license before he was drafted into the RAF to become a wireless transmitter mechanic. 

The ex-Wisbech Grammar pupil joined Goldsmiths at the University of London four years later where he studied painting, and in 1953, became costume and set designer for the London University Drama Society production of John Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon. 


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Whilst at Goldsmiths, Mr Young became interested in the educational doctrines of Sir Herbert Read, such as his book ‘Education Through Art’, and of AS Neil.  

It was the latter’s principles he applied at St. Michael’s School on Buckingham Palace Road in London in 1953-54 where he taught for a year while beginning evening studies in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute (CI).  

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He also took the Courtauld’s special first year course at nights and gaining a certificate in renaissance art.   

After teaching at Fossdene Secondary School in Greenwich, Mr Young transferred his evening studies to the academic diploma in the history of art held at the National Gallery, which he completed in 1958. 

He then joined the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Society for Education through Art (SEA), spoke at its annual convention in 1956 and was then appointed organiser of a four-day humanity, technology and education conference at London’s Royal Festival Hall. 

Mr Young teamed up with philosopher HJ Blackham to become editor of the subsequent report of the conference, before being invited to take on the editor role of the SEA journal Athene in 1957. 

During a six-year spell as editor when he helped redesign Athene into a journal of international interest, Mr Young left teaching in 1959 for a year to study the problem of the education of maladjusted children at the London University Institute of Education. 

A year later, he became one of a seven-strong team that opened a special school for maladjusted children in the capital. 

On top of his work at the school, he provided a course in art appreciation at the Catford Evening Institute prior to his time as head of lower school at Fossdene Secondary School. 

But it was in 1963 when the school closed and Mr Young decided to continue his educational work abroad, where he made an instant impact. 

On arrival in Toronto, Canada, he was invited to open a therapeutic classroom for children with low self-esteem and school phobia, and conducted this class for four years. 

During that time, Mr Young became a founding member of the board of the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and obtained a degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Toronto in 1967. 

Soon after arriving in the country, he wrote for magazines Canadian Art and Studio International, and following time as a lecturer at the Art Gallery of Toronto, he became curator of modern art. 

In 1969, the acting chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the gallery acquired many art works of international importance, and became the only curator in Canada to write catalogue introductions to his exhibitions. 

One of his exhibitions, Forty-ninth Parallels, became the first contemporary Canadian art exhibition to travel into the United States in 17 years. 

When Mr Young left the gallery in 1972, he was invited to join the faculty of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as an associate professor of art history, to create the college’s first department of art history. 

As a member of the board of governors at the college, the former writer made history. 

He helped organise the college’s first salary scale, its first ballot for membership of the board and its first faculty association, which he chaired for 10 years. 

Mr Young also became chair of the college’s publications committee and jointly translated the writings of Quebecois artist Paul-Emile Borduas, one of the first books to be published at the college. 

A professor until his retirement, Mr Young taught in the history of modern art as well as French poets and modern art and the history and art of Russia during his time at the college. 

Another course he taught was on French-American painter Marcel Duchamp, and in 1987, organised a three-day international colloquium to mark the college’s centenary and 100 years since Duchamp’s birth.

The series of lectures and discussions were later published in ‘The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp’, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Mr Young retired at 62-years-old and became special adviser to the acquisitions committee of the board of governors of the National Gallery of Canada where he served for nine years from 1991 to 2000. 

His advisory role came having become the first professor emeritus of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, now NSCAD University, in 1993. 

As well as continued research, Mr Young launched a website, ‘Writings About Art by H. Dennis Young’ and was invited to participate in a series of audio interviews between 2013-16 for website iON & Bob. 

Aside from his time in education, Mr Young found time to pursue a lifelong passion for sailing. 

He was a loyal member of the Armdale Yacht Club on Melville Cove in Canada, and was often heard saying “off to the slammer I go” in preparation for the day’s outing. 

He owned two sailboats during his long association with the club: the Merry Chase and Samphire. 

An experienced single-handed sailor, Mr Young rarely set out alone. 

Whether in a casual conversation with less experienced guests or joining in one of the club’s many events, the day’s journey for Mr Young never saw a dull moment and ended with a beer, or two, at the club. 

Mr Young is survived by his sister Sylvia, a niece and a nephew. 

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