Philip Tuck shares his thoughts about retiring from UCalgary Senate

A rose (Laurie Tuck) between two thorns (Phil Tuck and Robert Thirsk)
A rose (Laurie Tuck) between two thorns (Phil Tuck and Robert Thirsk)

This afternoon we held our last Senate meeting of the academic year. It has been a busy year. I feel proud of what we have accomplished and privileged to have worked with the Senators – some of Calgary’s finest citizens.

We concluded the meeting by recognizing and thanking 13 Senators who have reached the end of their terms and are retiring. The time, skills and commitment that they brought to the University of Calgary were considerable. Their contributions will be felt for a long time.

Philip Tuck is one of the Senators who is retiring. In his ‘outside’ job, Phil taught for 32 years in the Calgary Board of Education and served as principal of Bowness High School. Within Senate, Phil held several positions over his two terms (six years) including co-Chair of the Executive Committee (providing me with thoughtful advice) and Chair of the Honours Committee.

Phil is known for his sense of humour and his willingness to help anywhere he is needed. I asked Phil if he would write a guest blog entry for today and reflect on his time with Senate. Here are Phil’s thoughts:

May 6. 2015 was the date of my last official Senate meeting at the University of Calgary. It was also my 60th birthday. For some reason, this birthday has hit me harder than others. I have become much more reflective and searching about turning 60. I have spent a few minutes each morning reading obituaries in the Globe and Mail. I don’t think I am being morbid, I am just seeking clarity to see what others have done in their lives and to see what is important to them to add to their ‘final statement’. A list of common themes include family, professions, great things accomplished through special associations, memberships or by courageous intent.

My six years on Senate is also something that requires more clarity. I have mixed feelings about Senate.

I am happy that my time is over because there are certain things about big institutions that one, no matter how hard one wishes, simply cannot change. Take the parking situation as a perfect example of what I will not miss about the UCalgary. I wished and wished for a simple window pass to allow me to park during my near-weekly visits. Instead, I seem to have gathered a substantial collection of hundreds of daily parking slips which are now overflowing in my car door. I don’t blame the parking people, however. It is probably the only consistent source of income for the university thanks to our provincial funding model. Maybe things will change?

What I will miss from the university are the people. The level of dedication and commitment of the university staff to research and higher learning is truly phenomenal. The loyalty, allegiance and support of the members of Senate to UCalgary is equally impressive. The Senate is a wonderful group of very exciting and very interesting folks.

My most satisfying work at Senate has been in the annual awarding of Honourary Degrees (HD). The nominators’ lengthy submissions, the HD committee’s ensuing discussions and the final selection of worthy recipients opened my eyes to the incredible vastness of all the amazing events and activities going on in the world. HD recipients have utilized their gifts and talents in devoting their lives to accomplish magnificent and rewarding goals. During my time, Senate has recognized entertainers, athletes, judges, business leaders, politicians, researchers, Nobel laureates, architects, doctors and veterinarians. Every Honourary Degree recipient spoke at one of the roughly ten convocations that the university holds each year. They spoke of their life story, their life lessons, what they remembered about school or what adage they have lived by. Each speech was outstanding. Every recipient accepts their award on stage during a convocation ceremony. (All except Robert Thirsk who got his HD in space…how cool is that!) They spoke to the new graduates about their story so that their accomplishments could inspire and motivate. Honourary Degrees close the circle of lifelong learning as the accomplished, decorated and fulfilled encourage the audience of young men and women waiting to excel.

On a personal note, three people stand out for me as my time at Senate winds up. Jim Dinning, an inspirational leader who loves to laugh and engage all. I appreciated his support and faith in me as a Senate leader. Robert Thirsk, who is one of the nicest people one could ever want to meet and who is so intelligent and well educated it is frightening! I hope to stay in contact with Bob; I have so much to learn from him. Lastly, Stuart McLean of Vinyl Café fame. I acted as Stuart’s driver in Calgary when he was here receiving his Honourary Degree in 2013. He is a kind, witty and a generous person with a caring soul. I am truly fortunate to have met such wonderful people.

I was really touched when members of Senate all sang “Happy Birthday” at the last meeting. Who needs clarity when you have friends!

2 Comments


  1. Jill Wyatt

    Phil,

    I had not realized that you had written this blog. It is great: funny, true, reflective and so you!!! I miss you already on Senate. You have been such a faithful and reliable source of good counsel to me. It is true that you are always willing to do whatever it takes to bring something to a successful conclusion . You ARE always willing to help out. And you are very funny. You have made a significant contribution to Senate and you are truly missed.

    Jill Wyatt

    Reply

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