John Cruickshank’s long association with student athletics began when he became Sheridan College’s first athletic director in 1969, building the program from the ground up. He was an active member of the OCAA (Ontario Colleges Athletic Association) at that time, serving as conference president and overseeing cross-country running, judo and curling. In 1972 he represented the OCAA at a meeting for what would eventually become the CCAA, and in 1974 Sheridan hosted the ‘First Annual Quebec-Ontario College Hockey Championships’, a predecessor to the CCAA’s national tournaments. His attendance at national meetings became an annual event for the rest of his athletic career, such as 1976’s Vancouver meeting, where work sessions were preceded by a fishing cruise.
“John loved his time among student athletes,” says wife Colleen Cruickshank. ‘He was an enthusiast and a visionary, and took on challenges with a ‘yes we can’ attitude. He considered himself fortunate in those early years of the CCAA to have worked alongside so many colleagues whom he respected and whose company he enjoyed.”
He became dean of physical education at Seneca College in 1979, the same year he joined the CCAA executive as a vice-president. During his tenure he served as a member of the 1979 committee that hired the CCAA’s first executive director, attended the first men’s soccer invitational tournament in 1983 at Vancouver’s Capilano College, and liaised directly with Sport Canada staff during the CCAA’s 1985 funding crisis.
John documented a definitive history of the CCAA’s first ten years as part of his 1982 master’s thesis, entitled The History and Development of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association - A Struggle for Maturity. “I don't think I've ever encountered anyone like John,” says former CCAA president Chuck Gullickson (1994-96). “He was smart, he was driven and he made a difference!”
In 1984, the OCAA presented Cruickshank with a Shield Award to recognize his contributions to the growth of varsity athletics. From 1992 to 1995 he served as President of the Sports Federation of Canada, which he considered the pinnacle of his sport management career. He would also serve as a vice-president at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton and president of Vancouver Community College, retiring in 1999. In 2003 he was inducted into the OCAA Hall of Fame for his work as a builder.