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Memorial on Thursday for retired teacher and coach

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Robert L. “Bob” McCannon, a retired teacher and coach at Albuquerque Academy who founded the New Mexico Media Literacy Project and spent his spare time advocating for West Side Albuquerque residents, died unexpectedly on Aug. 23. He was 68.
A memorial will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday  at Ladera Golf Course, 3401 Ladera NW.
McCannon was born in 1945 in Chicago and grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. He went to Rollins  College in Winter Park, Fla., on an athletic scholarship and graduated with a history degree in 1967, according to his son, Brandon.
After teaching history in upstate New York’s private Darrow School, he found work at Albuquerque Academy in the 1970s,  teaching history and other subjects, according to former student Brian Branch, who became a lifelong friend.
Branch said he called McCannon “coach” up until he died, as did Branch’s two sons, who were McCannon’s godchildren. McCannon also coached Branch in football.
“The funny thing is, my friends who have no dealing with the Academy, they call him that too. People are always calling him ‘Coach,’” Branch said.
McCannon proved to be a leader students depended on at the Academy, where he worked until the ’90s. “Always, (he was) one of the most sought-after advisers. He was always there to help, whether helping a student get financial aid or just lending a sympathetic ear,” son Brandon recalled in a statement, adding that many of the students his father coached went on to play college football.
After McCannon retired from the Academy, he founded the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, which aimed to incorporate media into learning before such a concept became standard. The project was launched with startup help from the Academy, which agreed to supply office space and pay McCannon.
“When Robert assumed the NMMLP, it had no employees, no reputation, no products, and was broke,” Brandon said.
But by the time McCannon left in 2005, he had raised over $1 million in grants. “When he retired, it had eight employees . . . and $800,000 in cash reserves,” according to his son’s statement.
“Bob devoted his time, energy and passion to the (project), where he provided media literacy trainings to hundreds of youth and adults each year,” said Andrea Quijada, the project’s executive director, who met McCannon 12 years ago. “Bob was deeply passionate about the impact media have on culture, civic participation, and democracy.”
McCannon also wrote numerous textbooks, videos and DVDs, including the third edition of  “Children, Adolescents and Media,” a college textbook.
“He had a lot of personality,” Branch said. “He was not a shrinking violet. He had no problem telling you what was on his mind, but he got a lot of stuff done.”
Some of what he got done outside of his teaching, coaching and educating duties was being a voice for residents of the West Side, particularly when trying to stop the development of a Walmart near Coors and Interstate 40 in the late 1990s, Branch said.
While he and other community activists didn’t stop the retail giant from moving in, the store had to make a lot of concessions, including parking requirements, he recalled.
McCannon also spent several decades as the president of the Ladera West Neighborhood Association, responsible for efforts in crime reduction, small business development and the revitalization of Ladera Golf Course, where he oversaw the installation of a new irrigation system.
“His approach was that he was always informed and he was fearless. A lot of people stand for something, but Bob took it on,” said Dr. Joe L. Valles, former president of the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, in which McCannon was also active.
“He considered elected and appointed officials neither friend nor foe, but more a means toward equity and justice for his own neighborhood and for the entire West Side,” he said, adding, “I  was proud to be his friend.”
McCannon is survived by his wife of 26 years, Shariesse, his son Brandon, two grandchildren and one sister.

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