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Thicke: I got lucky in a purely Canadian way

by Jason Winders, MES’10, PhD’16 | January 23, 2017

Alan Thicke in Mustangs hockey gear
Iconic Canadian actor Alan Thicke, BA’67, best known for playing Jason Seaver on 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, died Dec. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 69.

Iconic Canadian actor Alan Thicke, BA’67, best known for playing Jason Seaver on 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, died from a heart attack Dec. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 69. Thicke was playing hockey with his youngest son, Carter, when he suffered the fatal attack.

Having skipped Grades 4 and 6, Thicke arrived at Western at age 16. Fresh from his small-town life, the 1965 Elliot Lake Secondary School homecoming king admitted to boxing up dirty clothes and mailing them home for his mom to wash and return to his dorm. “I had no skills,” he laughed.

“My time at Western, in retrospect, was a great time, and instrumental in everything I have managed to do in my life,” said Thicke, a Delta Upsilon fraternity member. “But by today’s standards, I would consider it to be simple, protected, naive, simple old Canadian values.”

In the 1970s, Thicke was part of the leading edge of Canadian entertainers into The States.

He spent his first decade in show business as a writer for icons: Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson, Anne Murray and Glen Campbell. He penned infectious TV theme songs to shows like Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Wheel of Fortune. He hosted numerous radio and television programs – none to more success than CTV’s The Alan Thicke Show and none to more of a failure than Thicke of the Night.

In 1985, he was tapped to play Jason Seaver on Growing Pains. That role put him alongside Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show) and Michael Gross (Family Ties) as the iconic television father figures of the 1980s. He is identified by that role, and its ‘wholesome dad’ persona, to this day.

He made recurring appearances on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, and worked on film and Internet projects with comedians Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. He had roles in many TV movies and feature films.

In theatre, Thicke received rave reviews opposite Jason Alexander in the Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach musical Promises, Promises and for his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago-The Musical

A sought-after emcee, he hosted event specials, including the Emmy Awards and Miss Universe, as well as series hosting gigs, including ABC’s Animal Crack-ups, the Emmy-nominated Pictionary and A&E’s Travelquest. 



As a headliner, he played the main Las Vegas showrooms of the Hilton, Desert Inn and Sands, as well as Atlantic City’s Resorts International, numerous cruise ships, and corporate events for Borden, Nestle, Mattel and Baskin-Robbins to name a few.

Thicke was also the author of Lovely Parting Gifts, How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You and How Men Have Babies – The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide.



Thicke remained connected to Ontario and Western. He supported the Alan Thicke Centre for Juvenile Diabetes Research, a venture launched by Thicke and his father, Dr. Brian Thicke (’56), who still practices medicine in Brampton.

“My Canadianess has always been somewhat unique and special,” he said. “I like that. And Western is part of that.”

Thicke is survived by his wife, Tanya Callau, and sons, Brennan, Robin and Carter.


This article appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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