University of Calgary faculty and students will change our world

Chancellor Robert Thirsk, Provost Dru Marshall and Senator Ian Minnifee at the Chancellor’s Challenge Golf Tournament on June 24, 2015.

Chancellor Robert Thirsk, Provost Dru Marshall and Senator Ian Minnifee at the Chancellor’s Challenge Golf Tournament on June 24, 2015.

I met today with the Senate Executive Co-chairs Ian Minnifee and Phil Tuck to debrief our last Senate and Executive meetings. The debriefing of past meetings is something that we routinely do. However, today’s debrief was not routine – it was my last meeting with Ian and Phil. Both of these stalwart individuals have reached the end of their terms on Senate. They have been my right hand people over the last year and I’ll be sad not to benefit from their sage advice in the future.

I earlier ask Phil Tuck to write a guest blog entry reflecting on his time with Senate. Today I asked Ian Minnifee to do the same.

In addition to being a Co-Chair on the Senate Executive Committee, Ian served on and led a number of other committees over his two terms (six years). Perhaps Ian’s greatest contribution to the University of Calgary has been his support of the Dino Athletics program. He found unique ways to bring the accomplishments of the Dino athletes and coaches to the attention of Senate. For instance, he helped create the Senate Service Award for student athletes who volunteer in their communities. Ian then set up a leadership program to connect the awardee with a Senate mentor.

I feel privileged to have worked over the last year with Ian Minnifee – one of Calgary’s finest citizens. Here are Ian’s thoughts about Senate:

As my term as a University of Calgary Senator comes to a close, I have mixed emotions about an organization that I have been extremely fortunate to be part of. I’ve often said that the “University of Calgary is the best kept secret in the City of Calgary.” If the rest of the community only knew about the impact of the work that is being done on campus and the dedication to excellence by the students and the senior leadership at the university, they would be proud to say “We are all Dinos”.  The Senate gave me a front row seat to view our future.

I’ve had the great pleasure in meeting some of Canada’s finest citizens, who care deeply about education, our city and our great country. There are so many individuals that I could mention who have left a sizeable imprint on the university, but the ones that I need to mention are the three Chancellors who I had the pleasure to serve with. I only had the privilege of serving with Joanne Cuthbertson for one year, but quickly realized that her passion for education, inclusion and success for students was part of her genetic makeup. Jim Dinning with his colourful socks and magnetic personality showed us that it is absolutely necessary to have fun, laugh out loud and not to take yourself too seriously.  Although I think credit should be given to his wife Evelyn who is way more fun than Jim. I can’t think of anything that our current Chancellor Bob Thirsk, who leads the pack with the most frequent flyer miles, can’t do. One of the most versatile individuals I’ve ever met who is comfortable in any setting and not afraid to take on new challenges. Trying to tame a group of Senators who all have very strong opinions about everything is quite the challenge.

There were so many events I attended and people I met while on Senate that gave me a sense of pride, hope, joy and motivation.  Attending the Citizenship ceremony held on campus and seeing the sheer joy and excitement of people becoming Canadian citizens comes to mind.  Watching the students walk across the stage at convocation grinning from ear to ear as they accept their degrees and greet the Chancellor for a brief chat is another. The transformational leadership under our current University President Elizabeth Cannon stands out. Our Honorary Degree recipient’s; Sheldon Kennedy for having the courage to bring a very important issue of child abuse to the public’s attention. The former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean for her continued support for kids and the Arts as well for her public support for her home country of Haiti after the 2010 devastating earthquake.

The most significant memory I will have about my time on Senate is about the amazing students and extremely dedicated faculty members.  At most Senate meetings there would be a presentation or information update about the fantastic work that these two groups were doing.  Simply put, University of Calgary faculty and students are going to change our world. It was quite common to leave these meetings feeling like we were not worthy to be in the presence of such greatness. At the same time, a huge sense of pride would swell inside me knowing that my university was doing such incredible things. If you ever feel you’ve accomplished some great things in your life, just visit campus and you’ll get motivated to do more.

A source of pride and focus for me during my term was the successful launch of a new student-athletic award.  The Senate Service Award is handed out annually at the year-end athletic celebration (Night of the Dino) to a student athlete that is a great student, a significant contributor to their team and a community volunteer. True champions on the field, in the classroom and in our community. These individuals are the university’s best ambassadors.

The hardest part about leaving the Senate is leaving the fantastic people I have met over the years. The Senate is made up of passionate individuals who are interested in making a difference and assisting the University of Calgary in any way possible.  Although I won’t be attending anymore Senate meetings, myself and the other retiring Senators have given the Chancellor notice that we intend on crashing all Senate parties going forward.

Go Dinos Go!

5 thoughts on “University of Calgary faculty and students will change our world

  1. Your blog is fantastic Bob. Please add me to your mailing list. I too, will really miss the outstanding contributions of Ian and Phil on the UCALGARY Senate. Looking forward to seeing you in the fall.

    • Hi Bonnie, thanks for the compliment. You can subscribe to my blog by visiting my home page and selecting the “subscribe to my blog” link in the righ menu. See you in the fall!

  2. Great reflection. It is evident that Ian and Phil had rewarding experiences on the Senate of the University of Calgary and have contributed significantly to the Institution through the Senate. Certainly their contribution will not go unnoticed.

  3. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your thoughts on leaving Senate after two great terms. You were a wonderful mentor to me as I joined and I was inspired by the finesse you showed in bring the excellence of Dino Athletics to the attention of Senators. Our time together on the Senator Development Committee taught me a lot about the complexity of recruiting and engaging Senators, and I am doing my best to follow in your footsteps. We continue to attract fantastic Senators, so I think the work is in good hands. I will look forward to connecting when you and Phil Tuck crash all the Senate parties!

    All good wishes,

    Jill Wyatt

  4. Ian:
    I know that it is often easier to point to the tangible contributions one has made when reflecting on the past but I believe without condition that it is the intangible contributions that truly move things forward. The contributions you have made over the course of the Senate include elevating the energy in every room you walk into, infusing others with a sense of enthusiasm and commitment, modeling the way a true professional engages others in a cause and of course living your commitment to post secondary education in general and the University of Calgary in particular, every…single…day. You have contributed all these things and more and I will miss seeing your ever present smile across the table.
    Now…about that Senator Alumni Committee….

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