With the Kamloops Mounted Patrol standing guard, and the hollow eyes of Coyote keeping watch from his place atop the House of Learning, TRU went back to the future Wednesday.
The university’s new chancellor and president were both installed in a ceremony under the shade of a tent in front of the Campus Activity Centre.
It signaled an end to experimentation in leadership for the institution.
The choice of Dr. Alan Shaver as president, and former judge and former attorney-general Wally Oppal as chancellor, marked a retrenchment from the showmanship of Kathleen Scherf and the effervescence of Nancy Greene-Raine.
Oppal, to be sure, has seen his share of controversies. As a provincial cabinet minister he was labeled by his critics as ineffectual and poorly informed. After he was defeated and then appointed to head up the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, there were calls for his removal.
Though he has, and deserves, a great deal of respect for his career as a jurist, his appointment as chancellor remains something of a mystery, for he has no previous connections with Kamloops or TRU. He’s an out-of-town chancellor who wasn’t even in town for the announcement of his new position.
But he was here yesterday, and he spoke well about the importance of TRU to Kamloops and of its potential to be a leader in the academic world.
Oppal focused on the wonderful diversity of the student population, due especially to TRU’s international program that has brought students here from 80 nations.
He stuck to his notes and there were no embarrassing moments, but there was one very touching one. When he spoke of his son Josh and daughter Jasmine, seated in the front row, he began getting choked up and had to pause to collect himself.
“I’m privileged and honoured that they are my children.”
It was a wonderfully personal moment in an event that was otherwise heavy in pomp and circumstance.
Thankfully, despite the controversies in his resume, there were no inappropriate interruptions as happened during Greene-Raine’s installation, which was dogged by a student protest over tuition fees and a half dozen First Nations drummers who sported T-shirts calling for a boycott of Greene Raine’s Cahilty Lodge at Sun Peaks.
This time, there were First Nations drummers, but they added only dignity rather than awkwardness to the occasion.
Shaver is a chemist by education and a university administrator by profession. After donning his new robes as president, he vowed “to take good care of your university.”
He spoke of “learning communities” and “solutions-oriented collaborative inquiry,” which, I’m sure, the rest of us will come to understand in time.
Shaver is very much in the mold of the much-respected Roger Barnsley, who oversaw TRU’s transition from college to university and then returned to bail out the place after the board of governors fired Scherf.
Flash back to October 2008 and the installation of Scherf. While both she and Shaver have spent some of their careers in the Maritimes, that’s about as close as they come to being alike.
During her speech back then, Scherf referred to the TRU students as “my little darlings,” and later famously proclaimed, “TRU rocks!”
Like Oppal, she, too, had family present. Her son Robert called her “a born performer” with an “outrageous personality.”
Scherf, and to some extent Greene-Raine — neither was mentioned during the ceremonies or speeches — represented an attempt to put a friendlier, less formal, more outgoing face on TRU.
That was officially abandoned yesterday in favour of good old-fashioned, solid, dependable, no-frills — though, perhaps, less interesting — leadership.