Angus Graeme is wrapping up a long career with Selkirk College that saw him begin as a short-term contract instructor in the forest technology program in 1992, move on to a full-time teaching position soon after, then take on leadership roles in the early 2000s before succeeding Marilyn Luscombe as college president in 2011. For the past couple of months he has been serving as a special advisor to new president Maggie Matear. Vista Radio caught up with him this week.
Your time with Selkirk College is winding down after what, 30 years?
Yes, 29 years, 11 months, and two weeks. How’s that?
But who’s counting?
Who’s counting, that’s right. It feels a little strange. I didn’t think it would because I gave my notice to the board over a year ago. This month as we’ve transitioned to Maggie and helped her get settled in, lots of memories come flooding back with a realization that I’m onto the next chapter. I don’t think I’ll ever not be part of Selkirk somehow. It’s just such a big part of my life and my family’s life.
Have you spent the last month introducing Maggie to people or was there unfinished business you’ve been trying to tie up?
A day in the life of the college is pretty complicated sometimes so I’ve been trying to introduce her to community leaders and partners and contacts throughout the region and further afield with First Nations.
There are lots of things going on. We hope to break ground on the new student housing projects by the late summer. There are new programs starting in the fall. So the month with Maggie has been all about easing her into some of the complexities of day-to-day life at the college. But she’s really going to be great. She’s so excited and it’s been so wonderful to introduce her to our community and region.
What are some of the things you’re most proud of during your term as president?
Early on I appreciated so much the whole philosophy behind the community college movement, which is all about universal access to post-secondary in all parts of Canada regardless of where people are from.
The work every day of making sure that access is there for students and seeing ways in which it has expanded, so new program areas that students are attracted to, creating safe education environments for Indigenous students, opening up the college to a much wider range of international students. Just seeing that kind of growth and being part of it has been so awesome.
What are the greatest changes you’ve witnessed since you started out?
It’s a long list, but I think the biggest is we over the last 20 to 25 years have increased our footprint. When I started we had a lot fewer sites and programs. We’ve got applied research facilities in Trail and Castlegar. We have now over 80 different programs at the certificate, diploma, and degree level. We have students from all over the world. We have as many students from different countries as we do from different First Nations in Canada.
Not counting Maggie, Selkirk College has only had three presidents in the last 40-plus years.
It’s a great honor for me to be part of that tradition. I think Maggie is going to be an excellent addition to that lineage of leadership. I’m excited to see where she takes the institution. We’re very blessed to be in a region so supportive of higher education and post-secondary and supporting our youth to realize their dreams. I’m happy to be part of that. To have a career in that has just been great.
What’s next for you?
Drop off the radar for a few months if I can and kind of collect myself. There’ve been two camps of advice. One is “You better have a plan” and others say “No, don’t make a plan. Just make it up as you go.” I do have a trip planned in September to Europe to reconnect with some long-lost family members and work on a bit of family history. Generally, to get out into this beautiful environment in our region, get up into the hills, onto the lake and just enjoy what is so precious to us around here.
So you will stay in the area?
Yes. My wife Ali and I have three kids we raised here, two of whom went to Selkirk. All three are now out in the world as wonderful adults. Ali is still working and she wants to see if I’m successful as a retiree, I think. We just love it here. We moved here in 1990 on a two-year plan and it turned out to be 32 and no end in sight.