In the beginning...
Born and raised in Nova Scotia, I completed high school with honours and received an ongoing scholarship and military bursary to attend university in Halifax. After a year, I chose clerical work, which I still love today, graduating as the valedictorian for the school. I spent 16 months in Europe and returned home for a year and worked the switchboard at Eaton’s before moving west.
I was fortunate to have a job waiting for me with a Calgary accounting firm, but I felt the call to move to Lethbridge the following year. I was hired at Lethbridge College (1977-81), where I was the evening manager for Continuing Education courses.
In 1981, I was given the opportunity by Personnel Services (now HR) for a half-day clerical job, to help with the grand opening of the Performing Arts Centre (now the University Centre for the Arts). My assignment was to sit in the foyer of the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel and pass out welcome packets to guests and invited dignitaries – Premier Peter Lougheed, classical guitarist Liona Boyd and well-known actor Peter Ustinov. The next day, I was offered a part-time job with the Alumni Association, 1981-88. It was a busy time because I took on an additional part-time job shortly after in Information Services (now communications), making a full-time job in the same office. It was housed in the re-located original gray service buildings from the college campus, the same buildings which were the beginning of the university. It is now Hepler Hall. I had lots of interaction with media and former students and organized events such as Alumni blue and gold socials. I sold memorabilia, helped at art auctions and assisted in organizing the 1984 black-tie reunion with former presidents of the university and guests. In 1985, I was involved in filling a hand-thrown pottery time capsule with University memorabilia and was present for its burial in the base of the Aperture outside the Library entrance, to be opened in 2067. I also provided Public Service Announcements and news items to all southern Alberta newspapers, all typed and mailed weekly, plus the Aperture monthly newsletter to all university employees.
I moved on to Political Science (1988-2011) to work in a purely academic setting. It was different and I liked it very much. With a major financially based shakeup to admin supports in Arts & Science in 2010, all 18.5 positions were abolished and then we were quickly reintegrated, according to position status and specific training. We were fortunate not to miss any time, but we were given additional assignments and it became more challenging to keep up. It has never slowed down.
I overlapped one year working for Political Science half-time and Mathematics & Computer Science half-time, until I moved to Math full-time (2010-2022). While many Arts & Science departments have many functions in common, the Mathematics & Computer Science department has a unique connection to PIMS (Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences). The university benefits with significant funding to provide many seminars, workshops, conferences, campus visits for the Piikani Nation School students, outreach programs for students from elementary to high school, post-doctoral fellow positions, and much more. It also involved financial reconciliations several times throughout the year.
Oh, the changes I've seen...
I trained on a typewriter, the kind with individual buttons and the platen that had to be smacked to return to the next line. From there, I worked with the IBM Selectric typewriters (first with whiteout to correct errors, then white tape and finally to the self-correcting version). Then on to word processors, which changed our jobs significantly. First we had floppy disks of varying sizes and now to SharePoint and the cloud. If you could type, you were guaranteed a job as so few people knew how back in the day.
Only University Hall and the gray service buildings existed in those early days, with a two-way highway joining the south and west sides of Lethbridge, with one turn signal. There were very few homes in the area and it's much different now. Several structures have been built over the years, especially the Water Building, what is now the MRI building and the Science Building. I was present for the grand opening of the Max Bell Aquatic Centre in 1985 when Alex Baumann swam in the pool directly below the projected video of his Olympic win. Powerful!
There was a different spirit on campus in the early days, a light and easy way of working. It has been replaced by a very structured feel, with the ever-increasing focus on funding. Covid created a physical distancing from campus, but it showed us that we are resilient to the challenges. The many necessary changes we made to accommodate social-distancing actually caused us to become more inventive and efficient.
These are a few of my favourite things...
It was an honour to receive the President’s Award for Service Excellence in 2013. It was very unexpected but deeply appreciated.
I love learning new skills and being at the U has given me opportunities to develop many. Of course, those I work with (both admin and faculty) have become valuable examples of how to conduct oneself, and I’ve made friends among them.
I have become multicultural in my thinking because of an increasing interaction with graduate students, who are overwhelmingly international. I have such respect for their determination to acquire an advanced education, even at the cost of leaving family and friends to do so. I’ve had students come back over the years to say hello and be kind in their memories of how I affected their time here.
I love the feeling every fall when the students arrive and the feeling with every convocation when they hold that parchment in their hands. And I’ve been part of that.
How do I replace all that (and much more not mentioned)? I came west intending to stay maybe two years, but that has blossomed into 45. That means I’ve spent two-thirds of my life in Alberta, mostly at the University of Lethbridge.
I'm moving on to other wonderful opportunities, the primary one is sleeping in! I plan to do volunteer work, some travel, some genealogy research and maybe find a sugar daddy. But I will definitely look back on my time at the University of Lethbridge with deep gratitude and appreciation, and I hope I have left a small legacy of a job well done.