I don’t know if the decision to hire Selkirk College’s vice-president Angus Graeme as its new president met with unanimous support by the hiring committee and the college board. But I do know the choice of Angus Graeme to lead the college was viewed favourably by nearly everyone working within the college.
What is it about this man that strikes such a positive chord among Selkirk staff?
To begin with, he’s a decent person. He treats everyone with respect no matter where one fits in the work hierarchy within Selkirk College. And he’s approachable, rarely having a closed office door while he was vice-president.
While everyone I’ve spoken to feels he may have a lot to learn about the provincial college scene and the political system, they firmly believe he will not take long to learn those aspects. They will accept this bit of inexperience because the human side of the man is attractive to all of us here in the West Kootenay.
I suspect that Angus learned a lot while he was in the shadow of former president Marilyn Luscombe. Moreover, his work as department head, school chair, dean of instruction, vice-president academic, and interim president clearly establish his leadership background. His masters degree in leadership from Royal Roads University merely solidifies these credentials. His speech at the recent college graduation indicated a thoughtful man who was comfortable in his new role and ready to move forward.
I met Angus Graeme shortly after he arrived at Selkirk to teach in the renewable resources department. In fact, he and I joined our classes during several winter terms for presentations. He had a course in forest issues, and the students had to present those issues from a variety of perspectives. I had a technical communications course which required presentations.
It was fun to work with him in the classroom. He dealt with management of forests and the environment in a serious yet infectious way. When students presented on various issues, he knew all the statutes that governed the province. And he imparted his knowledge competently and accurately.
Every student in those classes would have eaten out of his hand if he’d asked them to. They respected him completely, and when humorous items were introduced, he laughed along with them. In fact, when someone did especially well, he handed out chocolate bars. But he was always in charge.
Recently, I’ve been at receptions where he has spoken, and he usually adds a verse or two of poetry into his talk. As an English professor, I can’t help but cheer at these additions of Shakespeare or Tennyson to his serious talk.
He has always been the first person to buy Rotary roses from me each autumn as I make my way through the college doing my bit for Rotary causes. In fact, so high is my esteem of the man that I let him “owe” for the roses until he has money. He’s also quite careful about giving out the roses, always choosing the best dozen for his lovely wife, the artist Alison, and then giving the slightly-lesser dozen to his secretary. Truly, a man of tact and sensibility.
I probably will have to be careful in future that I don’t address him as “wee Angus” publicly, but I’m not afraid that the relationship I’ve had with him over the years will change much. He seems to know how to separate governing from relating to people openly as he has always done.
For several years now, our new president Angus Graeme, dressed in kilt and Scottish gear, has been playing the bagpipes and leading the college students into their graduation ceremonies. Now that he is Selkirk’s president, we know that his sense of tradition and his ability to lead will continue to impress the communities he serves.